(If you’re wondering: In 2014, 11 percent of Americans indicated that President Barack Obama was most likely to spur an argument.)
Focus on the food
That’s part of how the Supreme Court justices help keep comity, according to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. The justices host a steady stream of elaborate birthday lunches, retirement dinners and weekend bagel spreads.
“We can’t talk about cases,” said Justice Sotomayor. “That’s our absolute rule.”
There’s a long tradition of shared meals at the court: During the early years, the justices took nearly all their meals together in a shared boardinghouse. “When the boardinghouse style disappeared,” said Justice Ginsburg, “dissent began to appear.”
Lay down the law
Some basic ground rules can help make everyone feel comfortable during the holiday. What do those look like? Well, maybe designate the living room as a “politics zone.” Or place certain topics off-limits. Hosts can play a big role in this process: Considering starting the night with a toast to civility, and arrange seats at the dinner table strategically.
Forget about winning
We know, it’s not that you want to win, it’s just, how could your mother/uncle/second cousin be so delusional! Wrong attitude. The key to successful conversations, according to a guide created by the founders of the Women’s March, is open-ended questions, no judgment, respect, and a balance of talking and listening. Basically, be kind. Remember: These people are (supposedly) your “loved ones.”
If you’re really worried, you can practice good argument techniques with Uncle Angry Bot, a tool developed by the former psychiatrist Karin Tamerius, the founder of Smart Politics, a liberal nonprofit advocating the use of “radical civility.”
But if that feels impossible …
Go cute or go home
Our advice? Find the cutest thing in the room and home in. Be it the grandchildren or the dog, nothing builds group morale more than something adorable. Of course, editor Tom and I have the CUTEST CHILDREN IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. (What can we say? We’re very lucky.) So this is an easy strategy for us.