Holidays with extended family can be hard to navigate. For many of us, American politics feel personal, and wherever you fall amongst the parties, it’s easy to feel attacked when someone disagrees. When that disagreement comes from someone who says they love you, emotions run even higher. So do you rule political discussion off limits at your holiday gathering? And if so, what does that actually mean? Can aunt Susan talk about her stressful trip to the emergency room, or does that get too close to discussing Obamacare? Can your cousin tell you about her Russian class without collusion coming up? Are cat pictures the only safe subject left?

I’d like to encourage you to see the holidays as an opportunity to dig beneath politics for commonality with the people around you, family or chosen family, community at whatever level is meaningful to you. Karin Tamerius of Smart Politics developed a method to have conversations that acknowledge how personal political issues can be, while strengthening relationships with the people around you, no matter your political identities. Just before Thanksgiving, The New York Times and Smart Politics created Angry Uncle Bot, an interactive tool to practice and think about these conversations. Try out Conservative Uncle Bot and Liberal Uncle Bot to explore political talk in a controlled environment before your family gatherings.

I hope you have a safe, warm, loving holiday season. I hope that cat pictures are only the beginning.