EDITORIAL: Embrace difficult conversations with family

If you have the emotional energy, venturing away from non-threatening conversations at the dinner table this holiday season might be worth it.

While most young adults use social media to stay on top of current events, join social movements and engage in heated political debates, confronting family members who disagree in person is just as crucial.

And it’s arguably more effective when it comes to  combatting social issues.   

The past year has confirmed that there are a wealth of social issues for us to worry about.

Trans rights aren’t regarded as human rights, Muslim women in Quebec are prohibited from wearing the Niqab, and Black Lives (don’t) Matter.

All of these are urgent and we need to address them. Yet, people seem to be more divided on what position to take.

This  is proof that these conversations are more important than ever.

Millennials (18-34) in Canada are the amongst the most educated generations to date when it comes to educational attainment and political involvement.

Although articles online advise us to shy away from engaging in political conversations at home, research has proved otherwise.

An article by Brian Bresnick entitled These scientists can prove it’s possible to reduce prejudice cites a 2016 study called Durably reducing transphobia: A field experiment on door-to-door canvassing.  In it,  researchers found that having “a 10-minute conversation with a pro-transgender canvasser can influence opinions for at least three months.”

Bresnick said the study is the first large-scale, real-world one that shows lasting opinion change is possible.

The findings extend to combatting other forms of bias.

Kelly Swanson’s article, Experts Agree: Don’t avoid political conversations with family members,  quoted a  psychologist for Vox who concluded that by not having political conversations “you are perpetuating a system that continues to oppress certain groups.”

Engaging with family members who have opposing political beliefs can help stop to perpetuate prejudice if it is done in an inclusive and respectful manner.

Swanson writes: “By sitting next to someone that you previously thought was so different and having a conversation with them, you will begin to recognize the human elements to them. Racism and prejudice does not stem from hatred. It stems from fear. The only way to overcome fear and eliminate that fear is through dialogue.”

But patience is key.

If you don’t have that, choosing to stay quiet as a survival mechanism is a less taxing and legitimate alternative.

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