Ah yes, the familiar and daunting task of navigating Thanksgiving dinner conversation. While this traditionally tense mealtime exchange is often looked upon with a sense of unease... Okay, fine, it's terrifying, but fear not my friend! You have come to the right place! I’m here to guide you to a peaceful dinnertime conversation, or at the very least, a quick and painless one.
I hope you’ve been practicing your poker face because it’s essential for keeping the peace. Did your aunt ask if you finally found yourself a boyfriend? Wait! Don’t cringe! Act as though you’ve just bet your life savings and remain emotionless. A respectful yes or no should keep this train on the correct track.
Remain calm and poised. Raising your voice isn’t going to help the situation. Your grandfather isn’t a coyote and as such will not be put off by shouting. If you feel your resolve slipping, just shove some turkey in your face and move on.
I know it’s hard not to be drawn into arguments, especially over passionate subjects, but resist the temptation. To not be baited into a debate that has no intention of being absolved. Leave the squabbling to the rest of your family members. You do not need to tell Aunt Martha that you prefer sweet potatoes without marshmallows. There’s no escape from those hallowed grounds.
Compliments! Compliments everywhere! If Grandma Suzy made the turkey, then you better tell her it’s the best darn turkey this side of the Pacific! If you eat it, you compliment it. I don’t care if you don’t like the celery in Uncle George's stuffing! If that stuffing finds its way onto your plate, you better eat every bite and then ask for the recipe! Nothing makes people happier than validation, so suck it up!
Personal questions are best answered with short and vague answers. You know everyone is looking for some juicy gossip. The only thing that should be juicy at that table should be the turkey, so be short and then deflect.
The best way to turn the conversation away from yourself is to ask about others. Anything works, but children, work, and any possible marriages/engagements are the best topics. People love to talk about their kids or how much they disliked so and so’s bridesmaid dresses. Although, it is also important to be short in your own opinions, let them talk and just nod. It’s is argument infested territory, you must proceed with caution.
This final step is the single most important advice I will ever bestow upon you. AVOID POLITICS! Do not engage unless asked directly. Do nothing but listen if it comes up. If someone makes eye contact, you simply nod and eat your food. When in doubt, just eat, you can’t talk if your mouth is full of green beans. These are uncharted waters. If the boat springs a leak, you bail out. If you should somehow find yourself underwater. You escape. Sink or swim, my friend. If you’re lucky a life preserver in the form of Aunt Martha gushing about kindergarten graduation might save you.
That concludes this step by step guide to a peaceful, if not slightly less volatile, Thanksgiving dinner conversation. I sincerely hope you follow these instructions carefully and heed my warnings. I wish you all a happy, diplomatic holiday and remember when in doubt, put food in your mouth.