How To Talk Politics With Your Dad (Without Yelling) Pt 1

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Speaker 1: You know, there’s a desire to connect. And and we do have opinions and want to talk about the world. And yet we can’t do it in a way that doesn’t end up with yelling, hanging up, you know, swearing the other person off or overall just feeling crappy and feeling I mean, angry is one thing, but also just sad, I think disappointed that we can’t find a way to talk about this.

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Amanda Ripley: Welcome to How to. I’m Amanda Ripley. I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes it can get pretty annoying when I get added to a big group chat or email chain and my phone just starts blowing up with names and forwards and jokes. The for our guest this week, that sound fills them with an extra dose of dread.

Speaker 1: I have a family situation, a pickle, you might say that I’m hoping y’all can help us out today that deals with political emails and father’s.

Amanda Ripley: That’s Jen Brandel. She’s a friend of mine who I’ve worked with on a couple of different projects, and she’s also a journalist from Chicago who co-founded Hakin, a company that helps organizations listen and connect better with their audiences. Which is to say, Jen is a pro at communicating one of the best I know, which is why it is so frustrating to her that she and her brother Todd get these email forwards from their dad that leave them occasionally baffled and frequently fuming.

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Speaker 3: Hi, I’m Todd. I’m 45 years old, married with a daughter. I’m in software development and very much have strong political opinions and find myself getting into passionate and dispassionate arguments with family and friends all the time.

Amanda Ripley: Overall, Jen and Todd describe their family as pretty tight knit.

Speaker 1: We all get along well and I’m grateful for that. We all get along well most of the time, I should say. And my dad is someone who is very extroverted. He’s very Mr. Party Guy, and he’s someone who likes to send us political articles that oftentimes not only don’t align with our worldview, but are actively either. I don’t know if I should say racist because they can be, but they are. They’re really upsetting. And we end up getting into it over email or over text or over phone. I have hung up on my dad before, which I’m not proud of, and I personally have kind of decided to just give up and not talk about any of this stuff with him. I’ve asked him to take me off of his emails that he’s sent, which he hasn’t done.

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Amanda Ripley: Now you might be wondering, what are these emails? Well, they usually start out with pretty benign subject lines like Food for Thought. Then the body of the email is a slanted piece of commentary, often written to provoke the kind of thing your own family members might post on Facebook. The most recent forward from their dad had the subject line. I used to be a normal person and it starts out like this. I used to think I was pretty much just a regular person. But I was born white into a two parent household, which now, whether I like it or not, makes me privileged a racist and responsible for slavery. I am a fiscal and moral conservative, which by today’s standards makes me a fascist because I plan budget and support myself. It goes on from there, but you get the idea. These emails, they just appear in Jenn and Todd’s inboxes without much context, and they go out to a large group of people.

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Speaker 1: It’s just become this moment where it feels like as things heat up for the midterms in 2024 elections, we’re just going to wade into this territory where all of our blood boils. We might not talk to one another for a few days or longer. I know Todd has talked about disowning our dad before.

Speaker 3: You know, disowning our father a little tongue in cheek. But the conversation just always tends to devolve into labels and political parties. And what about this? And, you know, all the what about isms? So that’s the part that just gets me really frustrated. And that’s where I think we’re having a breakthrough and I think we’re having meaningful conversation. And then I realize at the very end he’ll say something where it’s like, we’re right back to where we started. Like, none of this has landed and I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried writing long, you know, thorough, thoughtful, hopefully empathetic emails back to him where I’m trying not to just be like, I can’t believe you said that. Or, you know, I’m trying to be actively mean to him or condescending.

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Amanda Ripley: Hmm. Though it sounds like it’s kind of a crack in the foundation and you would like to have better conversations about hard things that matter to you. Is that right?

Speaker 1: I’d say that’s correct. And if we’re people who already have a pretty good foundation and relationship to go off of and we can’t do this, and I don’t even want to say a civil way, but in a way that allows us to connect on this, then I know that’s happening everywhere across the country. And the divisiveness that we’re experiencing right now as a country is a representation of what’s happening to at the dinner table. And I feel like as much as the problem can start here, the solution might be able to as well.

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Amanda Ripley: Nearly half of Americans say they’ve stopped talking to someone about politics due to something they said. You all know this We’re increasingly sorting ourselves into segregated political camps, which usually doesn’t end well. Throughout history, we hang out with each other last week, marry and date less outside of our own party. Research shows that people are even discriminating against job applicants based on their politics. So conversations like this with our family might be the last, best path to understanding each other and interrupting that spiral. Which is why we called Monica.

Speaker 4: My name is Monica Guzmán. I am a senior fellow for public practice at Braver Angels. That’s a large grassroots nonprofit working to depolarize America. And I’m also the author of. I never thought of it that Way. How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times.

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Amanda Ripley: Monica has helped tons of people to communicate, cross the political chasm in our country, and she knows from personal experience how hard and how worthwhile it can be. So we’ve tackled this challenge before on the show, giving listeners advice for talking about politics. And it was a great episode, highly recommended. But this is the first time we’ll get to actually hear the difficult conversation that results from all this coaching in real life. This is the first in a special two part episode where you’ll have a front row seat to Jen and Todd’s conversation with their dad with play by play analysis from Monica. It’s a really cool opportunity to hear what works, what gets a little messy, and how much more interesting conversations about politics could be when we get beyond the usual talking points and discover what it is we’re really arguing about. Stay with us.

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Speaker 3: The lowest breathing recorded.

Speaker 5: Okay. Can you hear me okay, Ruthie?

Speaker 3: Yeah. You want a radio voice or what?

Speaker 5: No, that’s okay. You can just be yourself. This is not there’s no live audience right now or anything. So I wanted to do this experiment that I was curious about and wanted to see if you might be game to participate in it. And what it’s about is about having good conversations across differences in a family context and specifically around politics. I have a couple of oh, boy.

Amanda Ripley: Oh boy. Indeed. This is a bold move on Jen’s part. Most of us would rather scratch our eyes out and call up our relatives and earnestly invite them to talk about politics.

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Speaker 4: I’ve been going around the country hearing a lot of stories, and people just aren’t sure how to even broach the subject. But there’s so much internal frustration, you know, and pent up feeling mostly about, as you all are saying, you want to have the relationship and you want to have the conversation. Sometimes when you can’t have a conversation, the result is that you don’t feel seen. You don’t feel like this person knows you. And that’s what’s really going on.

Amanda Ripley: In your bio. You describe yourself as the proud liberal daughter of conservative parents.

Speaker 4: Oh yeah, we’re all Mexican immigrants. We became citizens in the year 2000. I was 17. But, you know, they immediately started voting for Republicans, which should not have shocked me, given all of our debates over the dinner table growing up. They’re awesome. My mom does a dance class like three times a week. My dad is an avid bird photographer and I tell a story about how he was doing his bird trail walking thing, and he saw this photographer that he admires on Instagram and had never met. And they start to chat.

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Speaker 4: And the other photographer assumed, given his Mexican accent and the fact that the election was around the corner and that they were in Seattle, that my dad hated Trump and didn’t want Trump to win, and my dad did not correct him. He just he in fact, in fact, he told me he doubled down. He, like, lied. He he said, yeah, yeah. Trump man, you know, he just said more bad things about Trump. Hmm. And he told me the story, and I was my mouth was open because my dad for my dad to care what other people think to the point that he lies about his own beliefs. I’ve never even seen that. And I like the level of almost shame that was on his face when he was telling me this made me angry on his behalf.

Amanda Ripley: One of the lines in your book that really stopped me cold was from the introduction. Would you mind reading it for us?

Speaker 4: Yeah. Why? When I say that my parents are Mexican immigrants who voted for Trump, do I not say the rest of it? Why am I both eager and afraid to tell my fellow Seattle liberals that I not only speak to my parents, but that I understand them, that if I were them, I would have voted for Trump to.

Amanda Ripley: Think more about that.

Speaker 4: I almost didn’t put this in the book because I was scared to admit it. I’ve had a lot of conversations with both of them. My mother. She was a pro-life activist when I was in high school. She started the Right to Life Club. You know, Mexican Catholic is a really strong form of Catholicism. It runs through my family and it’s beautiful. My dad is somebody who has looked at American politics and been pretty disappointed for a long time. You know, my parents both chose this country and I remember how they would study for their citizenship test. And they took it really seriously. And they knew more than me and most of my classmates before Trump. And this is going to sound like brace yourselves.

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Speaker 4: But before Trump, he saw so much dishonesty in politics. And what he sees in Trump is what we sometimes call authenticity. The man says what he means to my dad. He does not play games. And there’s a lot of ways in which I completely see what he means. You know, I don’t come to his conclusion that this guy is fit to lead us or anything. It’s when I consider their biography and their values first. Their values are not bad and their biographies are beautiful, and they arrived at the very different choice.

Amanda Ripley: It’s hard to hold that much complexity in your head, isn’t it?

Speaker 4: Yeah, it’s hard to explain it to others. It’s particularly hard to do. I’ve had some real tough conversations. We have yelled. I have walked out of rooms. I have not hung up on my mother, but I have at times done that cartoonish thing where you take the phone and you move it away from your face and you make a face at your husband who is in the room going like, Can you believe this? And then you bring the phone back and you take a breath and you try to continue. So yeah, it’s a very common experience and it’s a painful experience. And I hope that talking about it, we can get to some new ideas.

Amanda Ripley: What Monica’s learned is that political fights these days are usually a proxy battle over something else. When it comes to our loved ones in particular, we want to be understood, to feel like we’re known. That’s a deep evolutionary need, but we have to untangle understanding from agreement. They’re not the same thing. So that’s our first rule. Look for understanding, not agreement. And that starts with explicitly inviting the other person to do the same, like Jenn did when she called her dad.

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Speaker 5: I have a couple friends in the field who’ve written about this, and one of them has a podcast, and I thought it would be useful at this moment in polarization and overall just deep divisions in the country, especially with an election coming up to see if I could use some of these techniques that I have learned and learn them alongside you and Todd as well. And we could just record a conversation like using these techniques and testing them out. Okay. Yeah. Okay, great. Yeah.

Amanda Ripley: He was, like, remarkably easygoing about it. He was like, Sure, sure, whatever. I was like a blank check. How did it feel when you made that call?

Speaker 1: I felt pretty confident that he would say yes, in part because I think one of the things that I’ve been thinking a lot about as to why he sends these emails or why he he tries to get in these conversations is because he’d like to connect. And I think the invitation for us to sit around and connect and have some time to really unpack something is is attractive to him.

Speaker 3: Well, yeah, I think there’s a good chance that maybe jump in because where I might disagree with my sister a little bit is especially when it comes to the email forwards. He’s not sending those to connect. He’s sending those to Jarvis in the ribs. Like he thinks this is like a little zinger and like a ha. You know, you, you little naive liberals like this is the way the world really works.

Speaker 1: It’s interesting because I feel like it is a jab in the ribs, but the ultimate goal is for us to write back, to call back to in some way return his volley. And so he’s just like thrown it out there. But I don’t think he realizes that. I don’t know about you, Todd, but my blood pressure rises and my hands sweat and I want to punch a wall sometimes when I read his stuff and I consider myself a pretty calm and, you know, together person. But some of these things.

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Speaker 3: You should see some of the responses I’ve written and then trash.

Speaker 4: So you said something interesting and you said that you’re not sure that he knows that your heart beat goes up and that you want to punch a wall. But, Todd, you you said given that he knows how we feel, the fact that he sends us this stuff. So. So have you told him already how you receive?

Speaker 3: Oh, yeah. He’s well aware because often that’ll spark a phone call. And Jen brought up an interesting point of, like, maybe that is his way of saying, Hey, I’d love to talk to you. And instead of sending a text or making a quick call like, Hey, let’s catch up, you know, how you been? He’ll send one of these political e-mail forwards and he knows that’s going to elicit some kind of response.

Amanda Ripley: I think there’s a phrase in psychology called negative connection, where people are trying to connect with you. And it can be in a marriage, it can be any kind of relationship through like that crackle Right, that debate, that disagreement. Is that possible that that’s happening here?

Speaker 1: I don’t know if that feels accurate to me. What about you, John?

Speaker 3: Yeah, he likes to stir the shit. But I do think there’s an element of that for sure.

Amanda Ripley: So we all know that in most families everyone has well-worn roles They play for better and for worse, and it’s really hard to change those roles. But the first step is to notice what’s happening. Braver Angels. Monica’s organization identifies five archetypes that people tend to play in families divided by politics.

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Speaker 4: The sniper is a role the gladiator, the gang member, the defender, and then the engager. And so we try to teach people how they can move from all those other roles into the engaging role. These are roles not that you embody forever, but that you might play in a particular situation, right? Yeah, you can move around, but you know, like imagine the Thanksgiving dinner table. There might be someone who something political comes up and maybe it’s from the sniper, but it’s more likely from the gladiator who wants the argument for some reason. And so might be the one to prompt the whole thing. And then you’ll have the defender, the defenders going, Oh, you know, don’t say that about so-and-so. That’s not right. And then there’s the sniper is more really hiding, waiting for the right moment to just boom, you know, like in there with the with the talking point and trying to kind of score score a couple of points.

Speaker 4: The gang member seems, in a way motivated by wanting to take somebody’s side and, you know, align with somebody more than sort of represent maybe their own views. And then there’s the engager who can sometimes find a way to without blowing things up, you know, get people to kind of air out what needs to be heard and then maybe get everybody to some kind of understanding about the situation at hand or maybe that we should just pass the turkey.

Amanda Ripley: What do you guys think about that? Do you think your dad moved through a few of these different roles depending on the context?

Speaker 1: I think so, yeah. I definitely feel like the sniper and the gladiator are where I see him show up in terms of politics in those conversations. What about you, ten?

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Speaker 3: Yeah, I think the same.

Amanda Ripley: Mm hmm. And which role do you think that you play?

Speaker 3: Hmm. I want to think I’m the gladiator, but I like to also think I can be somewhat of a mediator and try to at least resolve conflict by taking things people are saying and, you know, finding common ground and and trying to bridge that gap. And I’ve tried those strategies with my dad a bunch of times, and it’s like, I think we’re making progress and I feel like we’re getting to a place we’re about to agree. And then he just rips the rug out by saying something at the end where I’m like, All right, none of this has landed.

Speaker 4: So you said something interesting there. I was going to ask you to explain a little bit. You had said it feels like we’re getting somewhere and then something will happen. And I was going to ask you, what do you mean by getting somewhere? And from what you just said, it sounds like by getting somewhere you mean it feels like we’re about to agree. And so is agreement the goal?

Speaker 3: Yeah, that’s a good point, because selfishly, I think getting somewhere means getting him to see things my way. Right. Which I know isn’t always the goal and probably is a selfish goal.

Speaker 4: Yeah, persuasion and changing minds. And there’s been a lot of research on this, but it’s very, very difficult for that moment to happen in the course of an argument.

Amanda Ripley: Here’s the thing. People do change their mind, but it doesn’t happen overnight and it helps if they feel seen as three dimensional humans.

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Amanda Ripley: So far, we’ve told you that Jen and Todd’s dad is conservative, extroverted, funny. What we haven’t told you is that he grew up in a working class family outside of Chicago. He played hockey, became a salesman. He can chat with pretty much anyone. And when Jen and Todd’s mom got sick with cancer, he became her caregiver.

Speaker 1: His identity became wrapped up as a caregiver for many years. Like, our mom was sick for a long, long time. Was diagnosed with cancer when I was in high school and I’m in my forties, you know, and had been by her side and, you know, fighting a horrible health care system like so many people who have loved ones in hospital care do. And his kind of identity had become like, I’m here to fight the man and I’m here to, you know, be right. And, you know, he always the the hero of every story with every doctor, every insurance agent and whatnot. But when she died, I think there was definitely a moment of recalibration of like, okay, well, what am I if I’m not this person? And then he’s also someone who considers himself a real family man. And our family has been moving now. We’ve been itinerant, you know, kind of spreading apart geographically.

Speaker 4: Yeah. I wonder if that’s part of the identification as well. Did the way that his political provocations, what’s been their peak or was there ever a time where he wasn’t sending these emails? When did they start?

Speaker 1: Hmm. I feel like the rise of Donald Trump aligned with the rise of my dad being more vocal and honestly, I think relating to him on some level and that my dad likes to not think of himself as like PC and, you know, thinks that is kind of a diss to call someone politically correct. And I think he liked the businessman narrative of like, I’ll tell you how to run this country. And I think he appreciated, you know, a guy of his generation, you know, white guy kind of ascending from out of nowhere because he’s always kind of thought government and things are broken. So I think he really took to that narrative and maybe it’s still leading it on some level.

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Amanda Ripley: So just as his purpose in life kind of faded and got more complicated and as his family was kind of scattering, along came Donald Trump. And he felt this real connection, this real sense of being seen. And then that also led to more distance between him and his family. Is that right?

Speaker 3: Yeah, I think that’s fair.

Speaker 1: I think to appease us, he would once in a while I’d be like, Look, I don’t agree with the guy on everything he does, and I don’t think he’s like a nice guy. But he did tell us that he voted for Biden, which I still don’t believe. I think he just didn’t want to hear it from us if he told us he voted for Trump again.

Amanda Ripley: That’s interesting.

Amanda Ripley: What do you think of that, Monica?

Speaker 4: Oh, man, I’m swimming with questions. Yeah. So, I mean, first of all, I’m thinking of my own dad because it’s very similar. I guess I’m conscious of the fact that he’s not here. Right. And so we’re making a lot of guesses about his motivations. I want to ask a lot of questions about where this comes from for him and and how he views that tension between the poking the bear type thing, the poke in the ribs thing and the connection with family. And I wonder if you were in the room and we asked the same questions like, what do you think the problem is, what he would say.

Amanda Ripley: So we know that this is a question that would be worth asking. Can we all agree?

Speaker 1: Yeah. Yes. Oh, yeah.

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Amanda Ripley: How. How would you frame it? Monica, What would be a way. To ask this question so that it’s horrible to him.

Speaker 4: Yeah. Well, this is where I think of, you know, it correct me if I’m wrong, but you had mentioned that this conversation, you framed it to him as an experiment of can you have a good, constructive conversation about politics? I guess one thing I want to ask first is. Are you also intending to deliver the message of truly how this has disrupted you and truly emotionally how you receive it?

Speaker 1: Hmm. I feel like at the end of the day, it would be a win for me, and I’d be curious, Todd, as to what your goal would be is not to change his mind, not have him suddenly be like, You’re right. All these emails I sent you that are terrible in this viewpoint, it’s reprehensible. I don’t think that’s going to happen. But I want us to be able to have a conversation in which we feel like we have understood each other, even if we don’t agree.

Amanda Ripley: You’d like to understand him better and have him understand you better.

Speaker 4: Yeah. Yeah. And it sounds like you’re looking for understanding both on your views and on how you share your views. You know, these would be emails and other things, like you want to have the conversation about how you have conversations better as well.

Speaker 3: I would have another related that maybe slightly different goals to just to get him to be a little bit more inquisitive about us and our viewpoints and how they came to be. And, you know, instead of trying to feel like fighting fire with fire and when we’ll say something and instead of him feeling like he has to contradict it or come up with something, that nullifies what we just said. Like, oh, that’s interesting. And, you know, have you thought about this? Or let me let me think about that a little bit more.

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Amanda Ripley: Jenn and Todd have their goals and they don’t include changing their dad’s mind, at least in theory. But one thing we know about our current political climate is that none of this will come naturally. You have to literally plan what you’re going to say and practice it just like you would for a play. When we come back, our first dress rehearsal.

Amanda Ripley: We’re back with Jen and Todd siblings who really want to change how they debate politics with their father. And Monica Guzmán, author of I Never Thought of It That Way. How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times. Now we’re going to dive into conversational tactics. The most important one make it personal.

Speaker 4: When people become storytellers for a bit and they don’t go straight into debate. There’s a far deeper and richer chance for people to feel heard and understood. If he goes, Well, did I ever tell you about that time? You know, with my family when so-and-so, like 30 years ago, and he might just come out with a story you’ve never heard before. And so not only will it help you understand, you know, your father’s politics, but it’ll help you understand your father. And that becomes a really good model for seeing behind our opinions, because we do we do kind of tend to just go straight to the opinions because that’s that’s the 1v1 showdown. That’s what it’s all about. But when it comes to people feeling understood, the opinion isn’t usually isn’t isn’t necessarily the center of it.

Speaker 3: I think that makes a lot of sense that I really like how you framed that because I haven’t done it so explicitly.

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Speaker 4: And if you do that, the hope is, of course, that he’d want to do that with you. Curiosity tends to be contagious. You can’t control for that. You really can’t. But I don’t know it. I’ve seen it work over and over again.

Amanda Ripley: Yeah. I mean, so Monica, would an example of a question be something like when did you first start thinking of yourself as a conservative and like, how did your life experience that shape your political views? I remember maybe seven years ago I did this kind of like experiment where you call a phone number and they match you with someone who thinks differently than you politically. And that was the question. The prompt was how did your life experience shape your political views? And the embarrassing thing was, I hadn’t ever thought about it before. I just subconsciously assumed I had looked at all of the facts and seen the truth.

Speaker 5: Yeah. Yeah.

Amanda Ripley: Which is nonsense.

Speaker 4: Braver Angels did. We did a workshop with members of the Problem Solvers Caucus in Congress, and at least one one member ended up in tears because of the stories that had come out. We don’t. We don’t tend to ask ourselves those questions. We we we look at each other as sort of walking opinions, and that’s all that you can engage. But the opinions are just the very, very tip and top of a journey through life that has shaped them. And it’s looking at the journey that illuminates the opinion at the end of the day.

Amanda Ripley: It’s harder to argue with someone’s personal experiences and it. The more personal you can keep it, the better it’s going to go. But, you know, I would expect that he’s going to he is going to go back to the script and the talking points and the definitely.

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Speaker 4: Yeah. If he gives the talking point, you could say something like, well, what what has made you think that that’s a really important, you know, summation of this and try to get behind it, try to get hip to him, to put it in his own words because you care about him, not because you doubt the veracity of that slogan, which will be tough in the moment, by the way, because you will be driving really hard. It’ll be you will be triggered and you might have to take a breath. And you and the other thing is, you know, being triggered, one of the things you can do if you’re still in conversation and it’s not so bad that you just need to hit a board is naming it. You can say, Hey, dad, I just want you to know that. And even, you know, be funny about it if you need to. But that that talk that’s that particular slogan makes me feel some kind of way. And I can tell you more about that, you know, later. But first, I just want to know more about what’s behind that for you.

Amanda Ripley: What would it be like to have this conversation without labels and buzzwords? You know what if what if neither of us said racist? Well, we could still talk about what that is. Right. So you could define what that is like. Use be specific. And you don’t have to say progressive or Trump supporter or like, what if you actually didn’t have those labels to lean on?

Speaker 4: That’s a great idea.

Speaker 1: That’s a new challenge that we will I will try to accept.

Speaker 1: One thing that I have encountered a lot that dads done, I don’t know if you’ve done it to you, Todd, but this kind of like the moment he feels up against the wall in some sort of an argument or that he doesn’t know where to go help just start talking about we like we must do this as a nation. We have always like our, you know, brothers and sisters and, you know, like he will just get really highfalutin and really abstract and talk about like we the people and I don’t know how to respond to that other than being like, who? Who? Who are you delivering the speech to? Like what? What are you trying to tell me here?

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Speaker 3: Oh, yeah. Kumbaya. Vague platitudes.

Speaker 1: Yes.

Speaker 3: Yes. His favorite escape hatch.

Speaker 4: Why is it an escape hatch? Why did you call it that?

Speaker 3: Because I like to pin him down and, like, put him into corners in an argument, and then he realizes he’s cornered. He escapes by just going to these vague platitudes. We all just need to get along, you know?

Amanda Ripley: Yeah.

Speaker 1: Like Monica, when you were talking about the different typologies of people and in these family conversations, I was like, I want to add two more. One is the litigator, which Todd would be, And then I would be the ghost of like, I’m out of here. This feels totally unproductive.

Amanda Ripley: Yeah, well, you did say I mean, you were pretty honest about it. You did say you’re the gladiator. Todd Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, and earlier you said, you know, maybe it’s selfish to want to persuade him. And I guess I don’t know. Monica I don’t feel like I’m selfish. I feel like that’s very human, like very natural. I think the problem with it is it’s not going to work.

Speaker 4: Right? And if it does work, it won’t work in that conversation, especially if your identities are, you know, firmly opposed to each other. If. I mean, it could be and hopefully, you know, you never know that you’re planting seeds in each other’s minds that could grow into something later on. But the chances of that happening that quickly and then being admitted to by the other person are extremely low. But what ups those chances is lowering the threat level.

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Amanda Ripley: So we’ve now got three concrete tactics. Get personal. Drop the labels and play the long game.

Speaker 4: I think that there is this sense that once somebody shares something that you believe to be completely on factual, but that has to be the end of the conversation because you’re only choice is to correct them and get them to admit they’re wrong or that’s it, or you walk away. There’s nothing more to talk about. And this is, I know, difficult. This is this is difficult. But I think that the thing to do there is to keep in mind that the conversation about what is true is not the only conversation we can be having. And here I’m borrowing from a friend of mine wrote a book called Why Are We Yelling? And he says that there’s three types of conversations we have across disagreement. It’s the conversation about what is true, the conversation about what is meaningful in the conversation, about what is useful.

Speaker 4: So when you get to a place where you clearly have different facts and or different beliefs at the level of truth, in fact, have the conversation about what is meaningful, you can still continue. You know, you can say, you know, I’ll register the fact that I don’t see it that way at all, but I want to know how you arrived at that. And then follow that rabbit hole as far as you’re able and you might get to some pretty interesting places. I have found it to be the case that, you know, false stories soar because people relate to something in them.

Speaker 1: That’s true. The thing I keep coming back to in my mind is human beings are not, in fact, rational creatures.

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Amanda Ripley: No, none of us.

Speaker 4: Right.

Speaker 1: The work I do, everything’s about curiosity, listening and helping people feel heard and understood. And I find it so difficult to do that with family like it is. I can do it with anyone else. I can do it with a stranger off the street.

Amanda Ripley: You are incredible at this. And I see you are? Yeah. So I can see why it would. You have an extra layer, maybe of, like, judgment about yourself, which is unhelpful. Always unhelpful. Right. If that’s happening, and there’s.

Speaker 3: All that history and familiarity that, like, this isn’t a person off the street. This is someone you deeply know.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Amanda Ripley: Yes, right.

Speaker 4: That’s the key. I think we. We have no expectations of strangers. Yeah, but we have a lot of expectations of our family.

Amanda Ripley: Mm hmm. Yeah. And I think there’s also, if you turn it on its head, something really beautiful about. The cause of that. Like, I think we want to feel close to our family and evolutionarily it’s really scary if there’s a gap between us, A wedge that opens up, right? Mm hmm. Yeah. Like, we know that that kind of thing registers in your brain, just like physical pain. So. One of the reasons it’s so hard with family is because it is so important to you.

Speaker 1: Yeah, these are really cut that field. Yeah, that heavy sigh. I think it it feels it feels deep. And it just reminds me that at the end of the day, the stuff is not about what’s right and wrong and what party and you know who to vote for in these people. It’s at the end of the day about feeling connected, feeling safe, feeling able to be seen and heard and respected. I’m excited, like I want to have this conversation so we can get to some of the the real depths here in the family. And like you said, to feel closer at the end of the day and not feel like I want to push this person away because we just can’t talk about anything meaningful without it getting immediately political.

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Amanda Ripley: Next week, Jen Todd and their dad sit down and try to talk politics differently.

Speaker 3: And a few days later I’ll get some insane right wing email forward with no context, no explanation, no preamble. And I’m like, okay, we’re back to square zero. None of this landed. Maybe that’s because you’re taking it. Is that those are my beliefs because there’s nothing to tell me they’re not. There’s no framing or context of of the message. And that’s somewhat by intent. Is it? Yeah.

Amanda Ripley: We’re going to huddle up and play the tape like football players after game to talk about the X’s and O’s, the touchdowns, the fumbles, what worked and what didn’t. You won’t want to miss it. Do you have an awkward conversation your family really needs to have? Send us a note at how to at Slate.com or leave us a voicemail at 6464954001. And we’d love to have you on the show. And if you like what you heard today, please give us a rating and a review and tell a friend that helps us hope more people. How TO’s executive producer is Derek, John Rosemary Belson and Kevin Bendis produced this episode. Merritt Jacob is senior technical director. Charles Duhigg created the show. I’m Amanda Ripley. Thanks for listening.