Thanksgiving is finally here. With it comes the fact that most of us will be reunited with our loved ones. Unfortunately, it also means that some of us will be reunited with our not-so-loved ones.
Now, as someone who always prefers to keep the peace, I want to remind you that there are several ways by which you can maintain a friendly, joyful environment – even when encountering those friends or family members with whom you typically don’t get along.
One of the most effective ways to keep things nice and jolly is to simply avoid certain topics at the dinner table. You might not be able to control how some folks choose to conduct themselves, but you can usually have a say regarding which items are discussed during dinner.
As you’ve probably already noticed, there are certain topics that almost always lead to either a silent tension (best case scenario) or all-out fisticuffs (worst case scenario). If you’re looking for a drama-free Thanksgiving dinner in which the turkey is your sole source of indigestion, you will definitely want to avoid discussing these topics:
Long-standing family spats
It is time to face the facts: if you’ve yet to resolve things with that very special someone after ten years of hostility, you probably aren’t going to make peace during Thanksgiving dinner. I hope you do eventually work things out, but a crowded Turkey Day table is likely not where it’ll happen. So there’s really no point in bringing up the past. Be civil. Be polite. But remember that you are there to eat a dead turkey – not beat a dead horse.
Recent divorces, separations, or affairs
Aside from a new engagement that you know everyone approves of, your best bet is to steer clear of relationship stuff at the dinner table. The potential for bitterness or hurt feelings is too high. But if you do feel the need to discuss such recent romantic developments, please do yourself and all your fellow revelers a huge favor: avoid any and all mentions of negative events.
So what types of romantic tragedies do I mean? I’m basically talking about divorces, separations, or affairs. Even if your purpose for bringing them up is to be supportive (“I’m so sorry that things didn’t work out between you and Kevin”), just leave them alone. This is the type of topic that can lead to a sea change in the mood at the dinner table. It can also cause a public rehashing of sad events for someone you care for.
A surefire way to bring about holiday hell is to talk about how much money someone borrowed from someone else or how little someone has. The truth is that money can be a very divisive issue. We all have different amounts of it and entire families have been destroyed over it, so tread very carefully when anything financial comes up.
According to some family members, commenting on the physical appearance of others is an entirely appropriate thing to do. The problem with that is that nobody can be 100% sure how someone else is going to respond to their observations. Even if we intend a comment to be a compliment, there’s a chance it might not be interpreted that way.
Oh, and you should be ready for someone else to offer up some unsolicited thoughts regarding your appearance. Perhaps you’ve put on a bit of weight this year. Or maybe you’ve lost some. Maybe your hair looks much different – even though you know you haven’t done a single thing to it. Some folks just love to comment on these types of things, so if it comes your way, be prepared. Simply grin, bear it, and move on.
The only time it’s ever safe to discuss religion at the dinner table is when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you and your fellow diners share beliefs. If you have any inkling of a doubt, though, avoid discussing religion at all costs. Like money, it can ruin your time together and, in some cases, even tear apart your family.
It doesn’t really matter which religion you grew up with; if your adult religious beliefs differ from those of your family members, stay away!
I don’t really have to convince you about this one, do I?