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5 Ways to Talk to Your Pro-Trump Family

5 Ways to Talk to Your Pro-Trump Family

5 Ways to Talk to Your Pro-Trump Family

It may be extremely difficult, but important to use any pull we may have with pro-Trump family to try to limit the number of people supporting his policies or voting for him in the future.

While it might be tempting to avoid the subject of politics completely, I do think it’s important to use any pull we may have with pro-Trump family to try to limit the number of people supporting his policies or voting for him in the future. If the worst thing you’re facing is being screamed at by a racist cousin, it’s time for you to stand up and speak out.

Here are five ways to talk to your pro-Trump family.

1) Arm yourself with facts, but convey emotion with personal stories

If you’re going into a conversation with the knowledge that it will turn into a political debate, it’s important to be informed. Stay up to date by reading reputable journalism. Now is the perfect time to buy yourself a New York Times subscription. Anticipate what your family’s arguments for Trump will be and read up on those arguments.

While facts are important, we’re apparently living in post-truth times, so an emotional argument may be the more effective one. If your uncle insists "extreme vetting" for Syrian refugees is necessary because they’re a "Trojan horse" allowing terrorists to enter the country, explaining that refugees already face an extremely difficult vetting process before entering the U.S., and do not get to choose the country they are relocated to may or may not convince him. Instead, state the facts and follow up with an appeal to his own desire to keep his family safe by saying, "Can you imagine what that would be like, to have to flee your home with your family? To live for years in a refugee camp while you tried to make things feel normal for your children?" When you’re talking to someone who sees other people’s lives as less valuable than their own, the first step is trying to build empathy.

2) Ask open-ended questions and listen to their responses

You need to understand where they are coming from or you’re just going to end up shouting at each other for three hours and then driving back to your respective bubbles until the next family get-together. Ask, "What do you like about Trump?" It may feel impossible, but you probably want to ask this without sounding sarcastic.

If they say they like that he speaks his mind (which is probably coded), repeat their point back to them before making your own. "I understand that he comes across as authentic to you. I can definitely see how career politicians seem more rehearsed, and come across as scripted sometimes. Does it concern you that he’s backpedaled on his campaign promises since getting elected? What concerns me is that if he means what he says, he’s talking about creating a registry of people and banning people from the country based on their religion. That goes against one of the founding principles of our country."

3) If they’re misinformed, question their sources

At some point, your pro-Trump relative might bring up a completely ridiculous "fact" that you know is false. You can question where they got the information without being condescending—really, I believe in you. You might go with something like, "Really? I’m surprised to hear that because I read something that contradicted that. Where did you see that information? I’ve seen that there were a lot of fake news articles going around on Facebook, so I think it’s important that we’re all careful about checking our sources."

4) Try and stay as calm and collected as you can be

No matter how angry your relative gets, you need to keep your eye on the prize and remain calm. Even when it gets personal, even when you look across the table and see someone who doesn’t care about your safety or the safety of your friends, even when they raise their voice, you stay calm. The second you show any justifiable anger, it will be used to discredit you, so just bottle it up for therapy next week. There are so many activists out there every day who are on the front lines fighting for our rights and pushing back on Trump's targeted policies—you can get through a hellish family conversation.

5) Don’t argue to win

I do think every white progressive who has pro-Trump family needs to talk to them about their vote. That doesn’t mean we will convince them—and it’s very likely we won’t see any progress after just one conversation. Don’t argue your point with the goal of winning. Just view each conversation as a step on a longer journey. You don’t know where you and your relative will end up, but along the way you can better understand the motivations of the voters who took you by surprise, you can learn how to more effectively appeal to people with similar viewpoints, and you can keep chipping away at deeply ingrained bigotries. It will be uncomfortable and unpleasant, but it is what needs to be done.

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Cassie Sheets