How to Engage Your Trump Supporter Family Members over Thanksgiving

If you are not ready to see your Trump loving family this Holiday Season, it is okay. Don’t feel guilty. Go see your family when you are emotionally, and physically ready to engage. Find friends that are going to be your family this Holiday Season.

If you choose to see your family, let’s go!

How to show-up

  • Before you meet with them, remember that they are your loved one(s) and care about you (on some level). Do not approach them as an adversary. But remember to talk to them out of a place of love. They are willing to meet with you because they love you (on some level).
  • Ground yourself energetically by engaging in breathing, physical, and emotional exercises. This process is meant to help you keep yourself safe, and allows for a connection between the environment, mind, body, and spirit. Research shows that individuals, who are grounded, have a healthier internal and external image of the self and others, especially during emotionally charged encounters. These exercises can be initiated daily before your family meeting, or right before stepping into the gathering: 
    1. While sitting, close your eyes, and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Take slow, deep, cleansing breaths for 2-3 minutes.
    2. Close your eyes and begin a quick 1-minute body scan. Start from your toes and go upward toward your head. Check how you feel internally. For example: Are your feet heavy or tingling? Is your stomach queasy or in knots? Is your chest expanding with each breath or is it compressed/tight? Is your throat itchy? Do you have a headache or lightheadedness?
    3. In any area that you register discomfort place your hands there and imagine bringing heat and healing to that area for at least 1-minute. Don’t force anything and allow for all judgment toward the self to pass. Breathe into any discomfort and accept that nothing is permanent.
    4. Close your eyes and find your anchor. An anchor is an image that brings you peace, serenity, and safety. Visualize this image and pay attention to the signals within your body. Your body is an antenna for all human emotions and intuitive thoughts.
    5. The anchor can be used when you are in the midst of the family gathering, and you find yourself being triggered by family member/s. Just close your eyes and allow the anchor to bring you toward safety. Keep feet planted on the floor and breathe.

How to facilitate a conversation

Connect with them on a human level. Ask them how they’re doing. They’ll probably ask you to. This is your opportunity to calmly share and explain your feelings of grief, sadness, etc. because of the election. Being honest and vulnerable is important so that you are heard. It allows you to get past their “Trump Wall” of emotional defenses.

Use “I” statements. When you speak from your own experience and how you’re feeling, it can’t be refuted. Facts may not get through to them, but they can’t dispute your experience.

“I am sad because my Muslim friends are being attacked after the election, because of Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

“I feel disempowered as a woman because of Trump’s misogynistic comments.”

“I am afraid because of all the violence Trump has promoted and his willingness to leave NATO.”

Tips on Questions to ask to facilitate their own awakening

  • Do not start questions of your loved ones starting with “Why?”, as doing so automatically puts people on the defensive. Try framing your question such: “How was it that you came to vote for Trump?”  or “What makes you feel this way?”

  • People are like animals and can sense your energy. Try approaching your family with loving-kindness and curiosity. You’ll get pass their defenses and they’ll hear you better when you use your “I” statements.

  • When they say something stupid or racist or oppressive, respond calmly with “Is that so?” It’s a simple way to respond, but not engage, but make them question themselves and thinking. Or, you can respond with a questions such as “Is that a really loving thing to say? Is that kind?”

  • Ask a powerful question when they entrench themselves into Trump or their oppressive opinion. This gets people to think about changing their heart space.

“Consider for a second, what would it mean if you were wrong? If Trump had misled you? How would you feel?”

 

The additional seven tips are adapted from The Fairness Project Series’ “When You’re Having a Religious Argument” by Robert N. Minor, Ph.D.

One

No Longer argue scriptures, religious traditions, doctrines, institutional stands, etc. Sincere seekers will search out alternative understandings, and ask for information. Instead, let them know that other information is there if they are interested.

Two

Recognize you do not have to be a scholar, an expert, or have a perfect response. See the discussion as a learning experience.

Three

Be completely clear that you personally do not agree with their prejudice (e.g. racism, homophobia, islamophobia, xenophobia, sexism, ableism, classism, etc.), rhetoric, interpretations, doctrines, scriptural passages, institutions, etc.

Four

Maintain a continuous, persistent, clear, concise, accountable response to arguments. Do not hesitate to repeat them again and again as if you are jumping up and down in the same place.

“No, I don’t agree.”

 

“No, I think that is wrong.”

 

“I know people interpret the scripture that way, but I don’t.”

Then, repeat.

Five

Don’t get hooked, but notice when you do get personally caught up emotionally in the discussion of the issue, even if they are “justified” emotions (“righteous anger”). Find out why you were personally hooked. Consider this a learning experience about yourself.

Remember: “If I have stuff with someone else’s stuff, that’s my stuff.”

Six

Notice when you get caught up in various personal needs such as the need to “win” an argument or the need to get someone to agree with you. Ask yourself: Why is this important to me?

Seven

Feel free to walk away and leave. You don’t have to answer them. You don’t have to represent entire Left/Democrats/Bernie/Hillary Clinton, etc. Give yourself permission to leave and treat yourself gently for doing so.

Remember, this process is to help your family or friend or loved one to begin questioning themselves and their investment in Trump. Even though their ego will probably be on the defensive and they may attack you, if you are calm and centered and kind, when Thanksgiving is over, and in the days ahead, they will have hopefully shifted somewhat with their psyche and thoughts. You will have planted the seeds which will hopefully help with their education and enlightenment, bringing them one step closer to the movement for social justice.

By Jeremy Rye and Anna Lesniak, MA, OTR/L who are fabulous and want a better, just and loving world for all of us. And would like you to consider the privilege others may not have to engage or walk away from these conversations or the deadly serious reality of a Trump presidency. Donate your time and your money to movements on the front line: Movimiento Cosecha and MPOWER Change.