LITTLE FALLS, NJ -- Clinical psychologist Dr. Meryl Dorf sat down with TAPintoTV’s Executive Producer Brian Brodeur to provide strategies on how to negotiate potentially difficult political discussions at family holiday gatherings.
Dr. Dorf joined Brodeur at East Main Media Studios’ studio facility earlier in 2020, after being featured several times on TAPintoTV via Zoom. East Main’s studio space has been recently reconfigured to accommodate safe and socially distant production in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made her in-person appearance possible.
“Inevitably, everyone is thinking about the state of the world, which is so polarized right now,” said Dorf. When discussing hot button issues, Dorf advised to assume good intentions, even if you disagree with the other person, to ask questions and listen to what they have to say. Asking questions in particular, allows someone to feel heard and understood, Dorf said.
Dorf recommended that, before you enter into a potentially fraught conversation, ask yourself: “Am I open to what this other person has to say?” If the answer is yes, she said, “Maybe you can have a conversation.” But on the other hand, “if you just want to go into a conversation and convince someone else that you’re right, it’s probably not going to work.”
What if you are genuinely concerned about the health of loved ones who may not be taking the pandemic seriously? “Leading with empathy,” said Dorf, “is the most effective way to have someone listen to you.” Ask questions, show concern, and then you may “present what you have learned and share it with them in a respectful way,” she said.
However, there may be times when it’s best to avoid these types of discussions altogether if you feel the conversation might get too tense. “Some people are not really open to having a conversation,” Dorf said, and it may be better to remind yourself, “This isn’t really the goal of the party.”
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