Navigating difficult conversations at Independence Day gatherings

Each year on the fourth of July, people across the country celebrate Independence Day with patriotic displays, parades, fireworks, and backyard bar-b-ques. If your July 4th celebration involves catching up with friends and family at any of these activities, chances are your conversations might include current affairs. With opinions that differ on these various subjects, it can sometimes be challenging to navigate these discussions at gatherings when recent events lead to heated debates.

According to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” study, high stress levels are leading to problematic behavior. During an interview ABC news had with Dr. Thomas Plante, a Psychology Professor at the Santa Clara University in California, he shared that “People are under extreme stress. And when a person is under stress, their frustration can sometimes lead to aggression.” And this summer, there’s certainly added tension and deeply divisive issues being debated across the country.

Whether it’s COVID, Roe v. Wade, gun control vs gun rights, politics, climate change, racism, discrimination, or frustration of gas prices….. All these issues and more can be really “hot button” issues. And nobody has all the answers about everything. We have to approach people and conversations with a certain degree of humility. Dr. Plante said. “I’d say we have to approach people with the expectation of goodness. We may not agree with them, but they may have something in there that kind of makes sense.”

All debates are not bad. Debates and arguments come from at least two sides wanting the other person to come to their side. Dr. Lisa Hill, author of Courageous Conversations said, “When relationships have been strained, learn how to apologize, learn how to acknowledge.” Continuing on to talk about the intricacies of these dynamics is important as we navigate through these times.

During this holiday we would like to take this opportunity to encourage people to be kind to themselves, courteous to others, and make an effort to keep the 4th of July fireworks in the sky. There’s a lot of room to walk away from a conversation. And it’s okay to walk away. And sometimes that is what is best, rather than say something that you might regret later.

We know that is easier said than done at times. But, consider that there are parts to everyone’s identity that they’re proud of, and that that they don’t want to change. Sometimes we have to meet people where they are, just give people time, listen to what they have to say, and present your thoughts with respect and compassion. For the most part, people can hear it, even if they do not want to agree with it.

Try to be compassionate and respectful. And remember, that if these conversations lead you to the place where you need to talk to someone else about the mental, emotional, or behavioral concerns this is bringing up for you, then there is always a professional counselor here to hear you at the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line (855-662-7474), or a peer support on the Peer-to-Peer Warmline (855-466-7100). And, if you are not yet ready to talk, you can visit the NM 5-Actions self-guided roadmap to find ways to understand and address both substance and behavioral addictions.

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