Avoiding Thanksgiving conversation land mines
Donna Woods of Lafayette is expecting a little bit of
awkwardness this year at the Thanksgiving
Woods is going to her brother's house in Rensselaer and
celebrating with his new wife and her five
"There's going to be four of us (from my family) and about
15 from his new family," Woods said. "We barely met them at
the wedding. ... So hopefully everyone gets along."
holiday is focused on giving thanks -- and, depending who
you talk to, eating and watching football -- it also brings
many family members together for a rare visit.
This time together can be great, but only if everyone plays
Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, says
there are certain Thanksgiving table talk land mines that
should be avoided at all costs.
Conversation stoppers include: "Are you two ever going to
get married?" "When are you two going to make me a
grandmother?" "Yes, I know you're a parent. But haven't you
ever thought about working?" Or, "No, thanks. I gave up
drinking after I saw the toll it took on you."
In addition to conversation blunders, family gathers can
sometimes get ugly if a long-time relationship strain bubbles
to the surface during the celebration.
Aura Emsweller, who helps
run the "Manners are Fun" program for children at Duncan
Hall, said guests should try to keep the gathering cordial for
the sake of their host.
"The last thing you need is an explosion," she said. "Try
to keep in the forefront those things you are grateful for
(in) that person. ... Make a decision that you're going to
create an island of peace and harmony."
When meeting new in-laws or significant others at holiday
events, Emsweller said the easiest way to start conversation
is to ask questions.
"Become curious about that person. Go in thinking, 'there's
something I could learn today from that person,'" she said.
"Look them in the eye and listen to their answer. Nod your
head and show some feedback. That will encourage the person to
Woods will be grateful this year for those family members
-- old and new -- who can make it to Thanksgiving, because
some relatives are spread across the globe and can't make it.
Emsweller said Thanksgiving is one of her favorite
holidays, not because of the food but because of the time with
"It should be about gathering with people you love and
thinking about what you're grateful for," she said. "That a
joy to me at the holiday."