THE HOLIDAYS ARE STRESSFUL TIMES FOR AMERICANS WHO ARE ABOUT TO BE BOMBARDED BY THE LESS THAN SAVORY OPINIONS OF THEIR RELATIVES. BUT DON'T DESPAIR, THERE'S SOMETHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.
THE 7-STEP GUIDE
1. Understand where they're coming from.
When your relative makes an uncomfortable comment to stir the pot, ask them why they believe what they're saying. Try to get to the root of where their beliefs are coming from.
Comments like these are often motivated by very specific emotions that you'll want to get to.
2. Meet them emotionally.
Share whatever feeling motivates them. For example, if they talk about their fear for the direction the country is going in, you can respond, "As a citizen, I also feel fear about the country going in the wrong direction."
Very importantly, this doesn't mean that you agree with the solution. It just means that you can connect on an emotional level. This opens the door for the next step...
3. Discuss their views logically.
Once you've established a common ground emotionally, start to see what are the logical components to their emotional state.
Engage their arguments by talking through some of the logic. Don't try to "win" the argument at this point. Don't even get into an argument. Let them talk and explore the assumptions in their conclusions. Give them space to explain themselves.
4. Determine potential for change.
Ask them specifically what they would need in order for them to think another way.
For example, if they made a statement that anyone that kneels for the national anthem should be deported, ask them if there's anything that could happen in their life that would ever make them protest the government.
If they're willing to engage that possibility, then you can move on to the next step. If they're not, then it's time to cut your losses and probably end the conversation.
5. Activate nurturance.
Now that you've established they could entertain an alternative in their thinking, ask them to put themselves in the shoes of the people they're criticizing.
Ask them, if they were in charge, how you would help them. Then activate nurturance by asking them to describe a time when they helped someone or did something good for another person.
6. Validate their broadened perspective.
If they've joined you on this journey and can now see how there are ways to help, then encourage them to go further.
For example, if they were to say, "I now understand why players kneel for the anthem. I would never do it, but I see why," encourage them to go even further. Ask them to see what change the players would need to see in the world to want to stand up with pride again.
7. Make them feel good about the new version of themselves.
At this point, now that your relative has embraced a new perspective, you have to make them feel good about the experience.
You don't want them to be embarrassed by their prior position, at all. Let that live in the past. Moving forward, they see the situation from a new perspective and you should thank them for that.
NOW, it does take a lot of emotional labor up front to meet them where they are, but it'll be worth it in the end.
If Daryl Davis can talk to the KKK and convince them to give up their cloaks of dishonor, then you can talk to your uncle and convince him that we don't need a ban on refugees.