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2020. What a year it has been! Coronavirus. Protests against police brutality and racism. A country divided politically during an election year. How are you doing? Are you worried? Do you feel angry about what is happening in Philadelphia, this country, and around the world? What is helping you cope?

There are so many things we can do during this challenging time to take care of ourselves. Eating well, exercising, and getting a good night’s sleep are helpful self-care activities. Cultivating healthy relationships is important now, too. How are you connecting with friends and loved ones? What are your conversations like? With so many controversial topics to talk about, relationships can feel difficult and strained. Whether you are discussing the election, Black Lives Matter, or whether it’s safe to get together for the holidays or not, these conversations can get heated really quickly. At a time when more, not less, support is essential, conflict and estrangement is the last thing we need.

How can we navigate these conversations without ruining meaningful relationships and losing important supports? It can feel so frustrating and confusing when people close to us have such divergent opinions. If you’re feeling stressed or worried about these discussions, afraid that they will lead to anger, fighting, or emotional distancing, here are some tips to help you navigate these talks.

  1. Begin from a place of gratitude. Remember what this person means to you, what they bring to your life, and why they are so important to you.
  2. Choose a time to talk that is best for both of you. Make sure that neither of you are too tired, hungry, or distracted.
  3. Communicate directly with your voice. Texting and email leave out important components of communication. You can’t hear tone of voice or see facial expressions or body language with written communication. This can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings. Leave texting for less important topics.
  4. Be curious about the other person’s perspective. Use empathy and try to understand where they are coming from. Remember that you can be empathic and understanding without agreeing.
  5. Do not attack the other person. Use facts. For example, instead of saying “You’re an idiot for thinking that” say “I’d like to share some statistics that I learned about that issue.” Do your research and be prepared with factual information.
  6. Use “I” statements. “I feel (feeling word) when (situation) because (reason).” This allows you to take responsibility for your feelings without blaming the other person. It helps you say how you feel while decreasing the chances of the other person feeling attacked.
  7. Have realistic expectations and practice acceptance of what you can’t control. Know that the other person may not be open to other views or be willing to compromise.
  8. If things get heated, take a break. Speak to how worked up you are getting and recommend resuming the conversation at another time, after you’ve had time to calm down.
  9. Come back to gratitude.

We hope that these suggestions are helpful and that you can continue to connect with the important people in your life during such trying times. Feel free to reach out if the support of a compassionate therapist would be helpful. We are here to help. We wish you a joyous and serene holiday season.