As we prepare to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with our family and friends, many of us have a Norman Rockwell scene in our heads: Big smiles and happy chatter to go with that golden, perfectly roasted turkey and all the trimmings.
The reality is that all that togetherness can cause friction, especially when the talk turns to politics or religion or Uncle Bob’s latest run in with the law.
So how do we keep the peace long enough to enjoy the day without devolving into shouting and accusations and vows of never speaking to one another again?
Here’s a little advice from the experts:
- Set some ground rules. If you already know that mom is a staunch Trump supporter and aunt Caroline organized locals for the Women’s March, take some topics off the conversation menu, such as the impeachment hearings. Setting ground rules is usually the prerogative of the hosts. You don’t need to be rude, just have people agree what subjects are off limits for today, and then insist they stick to the rules.
- Stick to family friendly topics, including sports, pop culture, food and travel.
- Avoid gossiping. Whether it’s George’s latest breakup or the money your brother owes you, keep it to yourself. You can bet cousin Betty doesn’t want to tell the entire gathering why she’s gained 30 pounds since last year, and Jake and Julie aren’t interested in sharing about their adventures with in-vitro fertilization. Give it a rest.
- Keep it civil. No name-calling or off-color language.
- Don’t engage. The easiest way to avoid confrontation is to stay out of it. You don’t have to engage, especially when someone is goading you. If you’re the one doing the goading, stop, and then apologize and move on.
- If you see a conversation begin to get heated, intervene and try to steer it back to safety. Sometimes a little humor or just changing the subject can avoid a blowup.
- If your family thrives on politics, religion or other potentially heated topics, take the time to really listen to different opinions instead of just waiting for the next opening to express your own. Be respectful and be as considerate to others as you would want them to be of you.
- Go light on the alcohol. Drinking tends to exacerbate tense situations and make everything louder and hotter. If you’re hosting, be sure to have plenty of alternatives, and refill water glasses before wine glasses.
- If all else fails, apologize. Nothing diffuses an argument faster than apologizing for a mistaken impression or a heated comment. It may be difficult to bite your own tongue but worth it to produce a little family harmony.
- Finally, take time to reflect before the gathering, and then express what you’re grateful for. It’s Thanksgiving, after all. Say please and thank you a lot. Show gratitude for even the little things.
What’s your family’s way of keeping the peace at family gatherings? Share it on our Facebook page.