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Holiday Gatherings Need Healthy Debate

Family gatherings and holiday parties could quickly go downhill this year, as emotions continue to run high post-election. (Pixabay)
Family gatherings and holiday parties could quickly go downhill this year, as emotions continue to run high post-election. (Pixabay)
December 21, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – "We respectfully agree to disagree" may be the mantra heard at many office parties and holiday gatherings across the country. Emotions still are charged for a lot of people after the presidential election.

Parisa Parsa, the executive director of Essential Partners, said everyone needs to ask themselves if they're grounded enough to resist angry outbursts and frustration, and if they can listen and speak with care so they don't damage important relationships. She said avoiding political conversations for now might be a good idea if people are feeling tense, but eventually, everyone should be able to talk about it.

"Long term, it does our democracy, our families and ourselves a big disservice not to go to the tough stuff because those deeply held values and positions come out of our personal experience," she said.

Tips to avoid a big conflict include recognizing the signs of polarization, agitation and strong emotion before they get out of control; practicing ways of speaking, listening and asking questions that foster sincere curiosity; and avoiding the pattern of "attack and defend."

Joan Blades, a partner with Living Room Conversations said no one should completely avoid talking with those who have differing opinions, because debate is very beneficial.

"When we fail to talk to people with different viewpoints and just talk to people that think like us, we actually make our own viewpoints more extreme," she explained. "That's a disaster for having a successful democracy."

Parsa said arguing about viewpoints doesn't usually change anyone's mind, and more information about a topic doesn't persuade anyone, since both sides usually have their own set of facts to support their arguments. She said you can't have a full relationship with someone unless you can talk things out.

"When we reduce someone to their political positions, we're not able to see them fully, and we're losing out on the opportunity to relate around other things that are common concerns," Parsa added. "So when we're seeing each other in stereotypes, we're putting ourselves in a box as well."

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY