With questions and topics that can explode unexpectedly, the Thanksgiving table can be a relational minefield.
You can’t always have a say in what comes up in the conversation, but you can do your part. There may be a time to discuss differences and have hard conversations, but today is not that day. Use these simple do’s and don’t’s to help make the holiday a pleasant one for everyone who gathers.
- Do you guys have any fun holiday plans this year?
- Watched any good TV shows/movies lately?
- What were a few of your favorite moments from the past year?
- Tell me about that trip you went on — I didn’t get to hear much about it.
- How about those Seahawks? (Or other family team.)
- What’s something you’re looking forward to in the coming season?
- What were some of your favorite holiday traditions when you were kid?
- What have you been up to lately with that hobby you love?
- When are you guys finally going to have kids?
- What do you think about this crazy tax bill they’re proposing?
- How come you’re still single?
- That was a rough divorce last year — are you dating anyone yet?
- You’ve had some health problems lately, right? Tell me the juicy details here while we’re eating dinner.
- What? You still don’t have a job yet?
- Can you believe all these sexual harassment/misconduct scandals?
- Are you a stander or a kneeler?
Play games your family enjoys or work on a project or puzzle together.
Ask open-ended questions about neutral topics.
Start easy and positive. If you want to know something personal about someone, engage about their life on more general subjects. If the conversation continues, they may open up if they feel comfortable.
Put aside differences — personal, political or otherwise — just for the day.
Don’t want to talk about your life? Ignore and deflect questions about your life by asking people about theirs.
Ask family members ahead of time if they’d be willing to drop specific sensitive topics for the day that otherwise are likely to come up.
Avoid topics that are controversial for your family, most commonly these center around politics and religion, but every family has their own.
Don’t ask someone about their personal life — if they want you to know about significant relationships or family plans, they’ll let you know.
Keep conversation family-friendly if young children are present.
No one wants to hear about your bodily functions while eating dinner — or probably ever.
Don’t bring up painful topics: lost jobs or relationships, financial or personal failures, family secrets, etc.