Thanksgiving 2018: How to defuse tensions over political conversations

Defusing tension at the Thanksgiving table

When it comes to family, the holiday season can leave you with extra helpings of anxiety at the dinner table. A CBS News poll finds 40 percent of people try to avoid talking politics on Thanksgiving. But sometimes those conversations are inevitable, so New York Times science columnist John Tierney suggests: Don't try to win political arguments with facts and logic.

"These political opinions are really based on gut feelings and what social psychologists call moral intuitions. And liberals and conservatives just have really different gut concepts of what's fair, what's not fair, what's sacred and what's taboo. You can't change those feelings so you're not going to change their minds," Tierney said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning."

Try to get something out of the discussion, he advised.

"Instead of telling people that they're wrong, ask them questions. You might learn something from even the weirdest member of your family. And if you ask the right question, they might even rethink their position. You get more that way than just coming right at them and telling them they're wrong," Tierney said.

The conversations can get personal because "it's who they are and what tribe they belong to," he said. So look for common ground.

"Some little thing that both sides can agree on and then quickly change the subject – like, 'These cranberries are great! Where'd you get them?' You know, that kind of thing," Tierney said.

If all fails, get the dinner guests to talk about themselves.

"I mean, that's people's favorite topic is themselves and if you ask them enough and they talk enough, they'll think you're the most charming conversationalist," Tierney said.