December 25, 2019

Love, avoidance and potatoes: A buffet of advice on talking politics during the holidays


 Photo: Twitter


Longtime bar owner Linda Stober thinks she has a time-tested answer.

“The holidays are a good time to take a vacation from your own personal opinion,” she said. “People are drowning in their opinions. It’s so stressful. When you’re around people you love and respect, maybe you can discipline yourself.”

She learned the art from working 33 years at Stober’s, an institution. At home, a drink or two can push her slightly off course, but patient listening is her preferred style.

“I was always sober while working behind the bar, and I could just let people talk and talk and it just wouldn’t bother me,” she said. “I tried to place my ego in the corner and give somebody else a chance to speak up.”

She was recently inspired by a head nurse at Sparrow Hospital who tried not to form any strong political opinions, for fear they might encroach on the quality of her caregiving.

“It’s a great time to be quiet and just listen,” Stober said. “Discipline yourself to be kind.”

The Rev. Linda Stephan, pastor of the LGBTQ-friendly Williamston United Methodist Church takes this principle even further, into a realm she calls “deep listening.”

“What I hear from people who have been in politics a long time is how much more difficult it has become for people who disagree with each other to have a dinner together, to have a relationship outside of those disagreements,” she said. “That friction is dividing us in ways that it wasn’t 20, 30 years ago. Finding our way back to that starts at the dinner table, doesn’t it?”

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