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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Learn to De-escalate HOT Topics Before Anyone Gets

Burned at the Table this Thanksgiving

Family members might be dreading Thanksgiving dinner due to the heated topics that get stirred up alongside the mashed potatoes and casseroles. Heading into the holidays, we can become pre-occupied with anticipating what the conversation’s going to be like at your table this year. Rather than dread a repeat of arguements from years gone by, prepare for how you want the conversations to go while learning new ways to prevent and redirect if need be.

Will that arguement about guns come up between Uncle Bob and Cousin Bill this year? What about when Grandma and Aunt Norma’s recipe debate that quickly turns into a competition? If you start into any conversation with the intent to prove the other person wrong, Thanksgiving family dinners are sure to become more like Thanksgiving family drama.

To keep family quarrels and debates to a minimum, here are the topics you should avoid at all costs:




Family gossip


Gun Control

Red vs Blue


Dietary preferences

But prevention on goes so far, especially if family members are determined to get into it. In this case, here are 5 phrases designed to de-escalate, divert, and redirect.

1. “I’d really like to spend this time hearing about what’s new with you (or the kids)?”

Prevention is the best medicine. If you do not want to discuss charged topics, express that you’d like to hear updates about your relatives – “How have you been spending your time during quarantine?” Encourage and re-direct conversations that could potentially go sour .

2. “Let’s talk about politics after dessert, shall we?”

Set the parameters and expectations for yourself and the crowd. Be clear about not wanting to discuss something at a particular time or not discuss it at all. “Glad you mentioned that. I would love to talk to more about this in a way that’s productive and not just debate. Maybe after we’ve had pie and coffee?”

3. “Tell me more about why that’s important to you.”

Instead of debating the facts and statistics, ask others about their personal experiences, or their values that may have led to an opinion. Try on an attitude of curiosity – there is always something to be learned or insight to be gained by listening for what’s underneath someone’s position — do you hear fear, pride, or something else?

4. “Sounds like we might have the same values in common.”

Highlight and build upon the values that you do share in common — instead of bullet points. When we talk about values we can potentially get on the same page, but when we fight about the election or the Second Amendment, it’s a lose-lose scenario for everyone. “If we actually agree on this value how could it work for both of us?”

5. “I need to check on the sweet potatoes.”

Sometimes, you just need to take a break and it’s always OK to step away — and the many tasks that remain in the kitchen on Thanksgiving provide plenty of opportunity for avoidance and distraction. Checking on the sweet potatoes is a good time to stop the sparks before the flame.

Just Change Your Mind


When it comes to our individual beliefs about political or social issues you might be surprised to learn how little control we actually have. For instance, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that we tend to judge others as has having the ability to voluntarily change their own beliefs -

When it comes to evaluating our own beliefs, we automatically consider the evidence that 's in favor of supporting a beleif. But when it comes to other's beleifs we give little weight to the evidence that they use to support their position.

So, if you should find yourself in a debate with someone over the holidays don't be fooled into thinking that you can willingly get someone to change their mind about an issue. Instead, try to have them consider the evidence that might constrain their beliefs,

But What About....? More Q & A for Turkey Day

Q: What about the relative you know will bring it up?

A: There are the folks who always love talking politics. Maybe they relish the divisiveness, or maybe they really enjoy talking to people of different political views, but whatever their motive, you don't want to deal with it. In that case. Try to immediately diffuse with, 'I know we've had great political conversations in the past, but this year I really don't want to engage in politics.'

Q: Is it rude to simply change the subject?

A: It's not rude at all to prevent the enevitable with some assertiveness. Let's say that politics do come at the dinner table, it's perfectly fine for you to redirect the conversation, just don't try to correct or put down anyone while doing it. Rather than saying, 'I don't want to hear that kind of talk,' or, 'I think this is stupid, I'm shutting this down', redirect that conversation directly by saying 'I would really love to get away from politics at the Thanksgiving table this year!’

Q: What if someone keeps trying to get you to take the bait?

A: If telling someone you don't want to talk politics doesn't stop them, and they persist even after you've tried to change the subject, it's time to ask them why they won't let it go with saying something like, "Gee, you keep coming back to this, and I know Grandma asked us not to talk politics today. I'd be happy to talk this about another day with you." Or, you might ask, "Why are you so concerned about getting me to agree?"

And If you must respond, do so privately and respectfully.

Sometimes it can be hard to just let things go. If someone really gets you riled up or offended, In this case it's imperative to remain calm, disengage and wait to address the problem with the individual, rather than launching into a debate at the table.

You might say something like, 'I know you and I have different beliefs, but the phrase that you just said really hurt me. I would love it if we could stay away from that topic and really focus on the things that you and I love about each other."

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