Self-Care | Family Members Out Of Alignment
How to Deal With Family Members Out of Alignment with Your Beliefs
Many people are finding that right now they’re learning their family doesn’t necessarily share all their same views. This may be with statements that are outright racist, imply racism, or are simply uneducated and seem to lack understanding of the state of our country. You don’t have to stand by and feel as if you can’t speak up for what is right to you, but there are ways to have these conversations with your family members safely and respectfully, which we want to help you learn so you are prepared if you find yourself in this position.
Art on Sweatshirt by: @aslidawn
BEFORE THE CONVERSATION...
Assess for Safety
The number one thing to always be aware of in addressing opposing views is your safety. There are times when it is safe to confront a family member and have a conversation to help educate and open their mind, and there are times when it may not be safe to do so. Look for signs like family members who show physical aggression when talking about political issues. This can look like slamming their fist down on a table, throwing things, or threatening others. These types of family members may not be those you feel comfortable addressing in an emotionally heightened conversation, and for good reason. Listen to your instincts and put your safety first.
It can be tempting to come back at a family member you see posting their beliefs on social media with educating resources and information as to why they may sound racist or be using racist language, but the place to have these conversations is offline. Addressing these issues in private not only respects both yours and your family member’s opinions without the potential to be attacked by others, for example in Facebook comments, but it also eliminates the possibility of embarrassing anyone and provides a safe container for each of you to understand each other with tone of voice and gestures, which don’t come across over the internet. Communicating via social media is often misunderstood, and these are just too important of topics to risk misunderstanding and causing hurt feelings or anger.
Take Care of Yourself
When you run into something a family member has posted online or are confronted with something someone has said that you believe is racist or uneducated, chances are you will experience an emotional charge at that time. It can be best to step back and spend some time practicing self-care before approaching your family member for a conversation so that you can come into the conversation with a level head and calm state of mind, prepared to have a respectful interaction.
This can look like taking a walk to get some fresh air and space, doing some writing in a journal to help process how you’re feeling, talking with a third party to help give some of your emotions an outlet, or spending some time doing a hobby you love that helps to re-center and ground you. Taking this time to bring yourself to a healthy mental space before engaging in an important conversation will help you stay calm, which will decrease the potential for the person you’re talking to to become defensive and lower the possibility the conversation will become combative or unmanageable.
DURING THE CONVERSATION…
Stay Kind and Gentle.
The best way to have a confrontational conversation is with kindness. Our goal is not to make our family member feel attacked or less than, it’s to help them learn what we have learned so that they can make more informed choices and have more integrated beliefs. This is where kindness and gentleness overlap. A kind, gentle conversation is one where you spend just as much time listening to their perspectives as you expect them to spend listening to yours. It’s a conversation where rather than name-calling or yelling, you consider simply sharing why what your family member said is racist and how it could've been said differently.
It’s also important to make the distinction between attacking your family member’s character and who they are as a person versus calling out an action or language of theirs. It’s much different to say, “You’re racist,” than to say, “What you said is racist.” One is very hurtful and will cause defensiveness, and the other can be the beginning of a conversation where knowledge is shared and the language isn’t taken personally.
Share What You Have Learned
During this conversation is the time for you to show that you have done your research, educated yourself, and you have the knowledge to back up what you’re saying. Share stories, show videos, recommend books, do all you can to provide resources to your family member that can allow them to form their own conclusion based on informed materials. Share what you know and how you learned it so that they have ideas of where they can educate themselves as well. Part of our responsibility is to continuously share our knowledge and to create a larger, more well-informed population that understands racism and the things that need to change to overcome it and create equality. We can’t do that if we’re not willing to share what we ourselves have learned and share it openly, kindly, and widespread.
AFTER THE CONVERSATION…
Give Yourself Credit
Remind yourself of one very important thing: the fact that your family member is having this conversation with you at all is a victory! You are doing an amazing job at raising awareness and opening minds and hearts by starting these conversations, even if they don’t change others’ opinions and beliefs overnight. Racism was not born overnight, and it will not be dismantled overnight, but each day we continue chipping away at it with conversations like these, we are making progress. Take some time to give yourself credit for the difficult conversation you had, whatever the outcome may be. Allow yourself time to rest and recharge and work in some self-care, as caring for yourself is the ultimate act of kindness during difficult times like the present.
Taking on challenging conversations, especially with family members, can be overwhelming and intimidating. We hope you feel more prepared to share your truth among your family and friends and to continue doing an amazing job at contributing to social change. You are doing the work, you are the reason we see movement, you are the reason we make progress. Be proud of yourself and continue pressing forward, we see you and we honor you!