An Aristotle-esque Guide to Getting Through Family Dinners With Grace
Updated: Nov 5, 2021
An Aristotle-esque Guide to Getting Through Family Dinners With Grace
We all have that one person (or, more likely, persons), we just do not want to get into it with, and will attempt to avoid arguing, or even “conversing,” with at all costs.
But as the world reopens, we realize that social freedom also means the reintegration of large family gatherings, in-law introductions, and an oh so generous variety of other potentially uncomfortable conversations.
Plus, SUMMER IS UPON US PEOPLE!
Which means outdoor activities, barbecues, and sizzling dogs with a squirt of ketchup and a side of both foreign AND familial affairs...yummy!
So, before Summer officially starts, what do you say we learn how to converse like we’re qualified, without corrupting our energy or having to kick ourselves underneath the table?
Today’s blog is here to empower you into arguing like you’re adult AF, minus the getting overly worked up, offending somebody, or allowing our opinions to be undermined - even as an introvert!
Outlined below are three Aristotle-esque tips to help you slay the discussion game in such a way that shows you know your shit, and ALSO won’t put up with shit.
#1. CAN YOU EVEN CHECK YOUR BREATH?
Summer’s started, family mingling is in session and someone says something SO offensive you. can’t. even.
Your nose starts turning up (and it’s not because of the flies on the french rolls), and in that same split second you start to lose control.
Before you say something you might regret:
Check. Your. Breath.
Breathe in for five seconds, out for eight, and then reassess what exactly it is you want to communicate.
‘Cause calm, cool and collected is the name of the game.
And although I know that you already know this, it’s never a bad idea to remind ourselves that the words coming out of our mouths aren't the only messages we’re delivering, because dirty looks or bad body language can offend just as effectively as actions.
Now that you’ve done your quality control, you’re ready to roll into tip number two:
#2. DON’T FALL FOR FALLACIES
Once the actual word-speaking conversation is in session, you may very likely come across a moment in the middle of the argument where you wonder:
WOAH, Where did THAT come from?
Wait, that doesn’t at all address what I just said?
(If this hasn’t happened to you yet, just think back to the Presidential Election Debate of 2020.)
It’s frustrating AF when you feel like the person you're having a discussion with isn’t even talking about the original topic anymore, let alone living on the same planet.
Luckily, understanding the science of philosophical fallacies can help!
Remembering the Religious Studies, Rhetoric and other Philosophy courses where the ‘undergrad me’ studied phallacies, I have to say:
I can spot these baddies like M&Ms in a bag of Kirkland trail mix.
(And if you really know me, you also know annoyingly well that is. ;)
Philosophical fallacies are basically a big word for bull sh*t.
Or, if you want to peruse the PG definition:
A philosophical fallacy can be described as a faulty argument, one that is not based on sound reasoning or logic. These can be made on purpose or by mistake.
Let’s break down the few I see most commonly used and then reveal why understanding each is going to be so essential for you:
Latin for “against the man,” an ad hominem is any instance where your “opponent” insults you in the middle of an argument.
Like when you tell your brother you don’t dig Trump and he responds with:
“Well you’ve slept with everyone in the city so who are you to have an opinion?”
As if your sexual promiscuity should have any effect on your political competence.
You may also recognize this fallacy in the attempts to discredit a person’s opinion simply because of their appearance and/or identifications.
In other words, anything you think is an out-of-line attack on your character, is an ad hominem.
One of my personal favorites - false dilemmas.
Also known as a “black-and-white fallacy,” “either-or fallacy,” or “false dichotomy.”
AKA: The type of argument that makes you think life is black and white.
But we know better. ;)
We hear false dichotomies when people say “We either go to war or they come after us.”
As IF those are the only two options.
It could be said that this is also revealed when we hear woes about “women rising” running the risk of taking men down.
When, again, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
The circular argument (known in Latin as the petitio principii) fallacy is defined as:
Arguing around in circles, based on an assumed truth, or arguing for a claim that uses its own conclusion as a premise.
Sound spherically confusing?
That’s the point. ;)
An example of petitio principii would be, “President Biden is the best president for the position because he won the presidential election.”
Very VERY insightful, eh? ;)
Now that we talked about the three fallacies I see most commonly used, allow me to breakdown just why they’re going to be so helpful for YOU.
Next time step-uncle Larry undermines your opinion because you're “too emotional to take effective action” or “not old enough to understand” you can call him on his BS - also known as an ad hominem!
Or, how about this:
The next time Karen comes into your business berating you about being a murderer because she saw you not wearing a mask while you were walking outside at a social distance, you can confidently communicate:
Hey- that’s a false dichotomy! Which means it’s a fallacy misaligned with logical reasoning and, respectfully, I can only give MY reasons, when I’m giving reason in return.
OR, you can not say anything at all, but instead embrace internal pleasure and peace of mind in knowing that your opponent's hurtful words don’t hold any real weight.
Because these three fallacies only give a tiny tickle to the tippy-top of an in-depth art of academic argument, and I sincerely believe having an awareness around them can increase your confidence in conversations, and eliminate allowing others the opportunity to intimidate you without logic to leverage.
Interested in learning more about philosophical fallacies?
Simply Google: Philosophical Fallacies - or read this article that’s BB & me approved. ;)
#3. PROTECT YOUR ENERGY
The third, and maybe most reliably relevant, chunk of advice I have for you is:
Protect your energy.
Because your energy is uniquely precious, and anyone who makes you feel any less isn’t worth yours.
Seriously - that's some basic self care strategy!
See what I mean?
(Thanks @theopeninvite for the support!)
If someone’s committed to misunderstanding you, it’s OKAY TO WALK AWAY.
I mean, definitely let them know before you do -- but it’s absolutely alright to express that you’re uncomfortable or simply #overit!
Although it can be extremely discouraging and emotionally draining when you can’t seem to agree with family, it’s important to keep in mind that everything is fleeting - including disagreeing and conflicting feelings.
When you feel overwhelmed, remind yourself of this, and - as hard as it is - try to illuminate a positive point of perspective you may feel gratitude in gaining.
Even if it’s the perspective of: EFF YA, I GET TO GO HOME AFTER THIS NEXT DISH!
Keep the goal of growth in sight when things get tough, and trust that the conversation occurred for a reason, even if you have yet to discover what that is.
Because, by reading this blog, you basically just learned how to argue as legit as Aristotle. ;)
And when you argue like Aristotle, you have a real opportunity to set an empowering, yet empathetic, example AND inspire others into following suit.
P.S. Want a little extra help in exercising effective communication in your romantic relationships too? I’ve got you! Set your sights on this post I wrote about Relationships on the Real: Compatibility, Compromises & Communication Edition!