We all know to stay away from discussions about sex, religion and politics at work. Here are five ways to help you extend the same courtesy to family and friends (and yourself) at Thanksgiving.
- Don't Take the Bait: Just because someone makes a political statement, there is no obligation for you to respond. You can simply ignore it; if there is no reply, a speaker will often drop the subject. Or you can say that you had promised yourself that you would not discuss politics until during the holidays.
- Change the Subject: The person who feels compelled to share political opinions is not the only one at the table. You can change the subject to something that person is interested in, or even better, something everyone will be interested in. Chances are the other people at the table will be relieved, particularly if you're the host.
- Be Ready with Other Subjects: We all know topics that are appropriate for a general audience: books you have read, plays or movies you have seen, funny stories from work, celebrity gossip, sports, the difficulties of driving to your destination, what the kids and grandkids are up to. Share your passion for arts, hobbies, or science. Food is a universal topic; everyone remembers great meals or favorite recipes.
- Provide Distractions: Football is one of the highlights of Thanksgiving Day. Other favorites include the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (9:00 AM EST on NBC) and The National Dog Show (noon EST on NBC). Classic holiday movies and family-friendly games can also provide welcome distractions (See list below for suggestions). Although many hosts ban smart phones at the table, making an exception by asking everyone to share their funniest animal videos or cute baby photos could save the day.
- Have an Exit Strategy: If political talk persists, you can say you need to get a little fresh air and go for a walk, even if it's around the block. You can volunteer to help with the cleanup, there are always lots of dishes to wash and food to put away. You can join the kids in playing video games. Or you can say you need to beat the traffic, hug everyone goodbye, thank the host, and hit the road.
More Small Talk Topics and Other Diversions
- Pets: If you can get someone talking about their dog/cat/ferret/bird, others will follow.
- Travel: Get the details of recent vacations or plans for future travel.
- Tech: Compare the best smart phone apps, virtual assistants, tech gadgets, and find out which ones people would like to get as holiday gifts.
- Retro: Ask about favorite gadgets, food or events from earlier eras. This can be especially interesting if you have members of the Greatest Generation at your table.
- Movies: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987, PG), A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973, NR), Miracle on 34th Street (1947, G), Home Alone (1990, PG), The Mouse on the Mayflower (1968 G), It's a Wonderful Life (1946, NR).
- Games: Apples to Apples, Beat the Parents, Clue-Harry Potter Edition, King of Tokyo, Taboo, Ticket to Ride, Sorry, Unexploded Cow.