Survive Thanksgiving Day with these tips for meaningful conversations

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Thanksgiving Day is a time to take a break from busy day-to-day schedules, gather with loved ones, and remember what truly matters. For some, it might be one of the few times of the year when the entire family is together in one place.

However, things don’t always work out the way we planned on Thanksgiving Day—or any other day in which relatives gather for a meal. Steer clear of arguments, debates, and bickering by planning ahead. Use the following tips to start meaningful conversations when family and friends gather:

Ask questions. Sometimes the best way to start a conversation is by asking a question that engages everyone, like “My most embarrassing moment …” or “My favorite childhood memory …” Another option is to ask a grandparent, parent, or another relative about family holiday traditions and how they’ve changed over the years. You also can have friends and relatives draw questions from a bowl.

Take the opportunity to learn. Although it’s a general rule of thumb to avoid topics that may cause tension with family members, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a meaningful conversation. Do you have family members who have served in the military? In some cases, veterans didn’t discuss their service when they returned. Invite one or two family members to share your family’s military history to keep the focus on their patriotism. 

Give thanks. Telling your loved ones what they mean to you isn’t something that should be reserved for one day out of the year. Let them know how thankful you are for them or share something you admire about them. Invite others to share what they’re thankful for.

These are just some of the ways you can get the ball rolling and have conversations that matter this Thanksgiving. Here are some other quick tips that can help with even more family harmony.

Volunteer. There are many volunteering opportunities on Thanksgiving, especially serving holiday meals to military servicemembers, homeless veterans, or residents at local shelters. Make it a family affair by inviting relatives to help out.

Share recipes. Put the focus on the food. Do your relatives pitch in with their favorite dishes? Ask them beforehand to share the recipe with those gathered, or share a little bit about how the recipe came about.

Use icebreakers. Before you get to those meaningful conversations, you can lighten the mood with icebreakers. It could be as simple as having a Fact or Fiction? session in which everybody writes down three facts about themselves and leave it up to the rest of the group to determine if they’re true or false.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day!

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