News·6 min read

How To Handle Those (Not-So-Fun) Political Conversations During the Holidays

Christmas dinner with friends at home.
theSkimm | Getty Images
December 20, 2021

If this is the first time you’re seeing your loved ones for the holiday season, you might be out of practice for navigating tough (and sometimes awkward) political convos. That’s why we’re bringing you ideas on how to deal with them. Plus, we’ve got some of the biggest headlines of 2021 and resources to help you learn more, just in case they come up.

Tips for Navigating Political Conversations 

No matter what side of the political aisle you lean, here are some tips that experts say will help keep things calm, cool, and collected.

  • Stay civil. Experts say to remember that first and foremost, you’re talking to people who you love and care about. Whether or not you see eye-to-eye. If neither of you agrees or wants to talk about a topic, respect that. Being aggressive or pushing someone over the edge can create more tension.

  • Do your homework. Grandma might have a reputation for bringing up a touchy political topic. Some experts say that if you want to engage, consider doing some research in advance. (We’ve got more on this below.) Also helpful: having other topics of conversation in mind, in case you want to change the subject.

  • Set boundaries. The holidays are a time to unwind and relax. Experts suggest ground rules for your guests — and yourself. Whether that’s designating a room where it’s OK to talk politics, or deciding which topics will be off-limits.

  • Talk, don’t debate. Multiple experts say going into the conversation with the intent of winning an argument isn’t very effective. Instead, go in with the mindset of hearing someone out, learning from their point of view, and shining a light on why you feel a certain way.

  • Say “I” statements. Aka don’t turn your opinions into facts. Dan Harris, former ABC News anchor and author and co-founder of Ten Percent Happier, says these types of statements may help you get your point across better. One example: “I feel that [this politician] is horrible and greedy” versus “[This politician] is horrible and greedy.”

  • Ask open-ended questions. Surprise: People love to talk about themselves and their opinions. Asking someone a question without judgment or assumption may help them express themselves more freely, according to an opinion piece from The New York Times. One example: “[This topic] has been all over social media lately. What do you think about it?” versus “I hate how [this topic] is all over social media. Don’t you agree?”

Psst…We’ve got tips on how to keep your mental health in check over the holidays.

News Topics You May Hear About Over The Holidays

A lot of hot-button issues have been in the headlines this year. So here’s what you might hear about while you’re passing the potatoes.

  • Abortion. A major buzzword over the past few months. That’s because the Supreme Court is taking up an abortion case out of Mississippi this term. And abortion rights advocates worry the bench could overturn the landmark ruling Roe v Wade in 2022. Check out our articles on the legal battles around abortion and everything to know about the procedure.

  • Capitol riots. Jan 6 marks the one-year anniversary since pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol. Since then, lawmakers have been saying ‘you get a subpoena, you get a subpoena’ to a number of Trump associates. And in December, the longest sentence yet was issued in relation to the insurrection. We’ve been tracking what’s happened in the aftermath of that day, from arrests to congressional action.

  • Climate change. Over the summer, the UN released an alarming report on climate change. It was described as a “code red for humanity.” Some of the findings include: that some changes are “irreversible” (example: rising sea levels) — and extreme weather is here to stay. Here’s your Skimm on the importance of the report. And if COP26 (the annual UN climate change conference that happened in the fall) comes up, we explain what went down. Plus, if you want to know how climate change affects your wallet and health, learn about it here and here.  

  • Infrastructure. Typically a snooze of a topic. But not this year. After months of negotiations, Congress passed and President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in November. We explained what’s in the law and why it matters here. Plus, we talked to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about what it means for millennials.

  • The midterms. We don’t know about you, but we’re feeling 2022. And your holiday guests might be too. Here are some races to keep an eye on. Since the presidential election last year, many states have intro’d or passed legislation to both restrict and expand voting rights. Check out our article on where things stand with these bills

  • The White House. No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, presidents are typically divisive in one way or another. President Biden is wrapping up his first year in office. And we've been tracking how he's held up (or hasn't held up) with key campaign promises. Check it out.

Psst…We know this year was full of a lot of upsetting headlines. That’s why we Skimm’d good news moments from 2021.


The holidays are meant to be a special time with family and friends. But given the political climate in our country, conversations around politics can creep in and ruin those moments. So it’s best to know how to navigate them if they come up.

Updated on Dec. 20 to include the latest news on abortion, the Capitol riots, COVID-19, and the Ahmaud Arbery and Kyle Rittenhouse trials.

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