Your Thanksgiving Dinner Conversation Guidance

Is Thanksgiving dinner a dread?  Got that family member who is of whatever-party-you're-not that just seems ridiculous? Does it always turn into a political meltdown?


It doesn't have to.

Try something new this Thanksgiving and see what works. Here are a few potential strategies:

Starting Strong

If things haven't fallen apart yet, try directing the conversation towards somewhere that builds an understanding of shared values. Don't play into the roles that we've been habituated to play by wedging politics... that just primes others to respond with anger.

Don't bother with opinions. Start instead with "hey I found something interesting..." that breaks the mold. A few good examples:

That way you have political issues that you're exploring from the perspective of a curious analyst, and you can ask some questions about it together, and reinforce your shared values, including (perhaps):

  • We want fewer unwanted pregnancies
  • We want fewer premature deaths
  • We want to improve life expectancy and healthcare affordability in the US

And maybe acknowledge that our disagreements are just questions of "what's the best way to do each of these things," and that that's a potentially really interesting discussion to have.

Get them to Sell

If they start saying something that seems really absurd and want you to engage, try this line: "So I'm of course coming from a different direction, but I'm happy to listen: try explaining it to me as if you were trying to sell me a new product. I'm a customer of your competitor's brand, but you want me to buy your brand instead and become a loyal, life-long customer. What would you say?"

In our experience that's changed how someone's approached the conversation. When you get someone's brain to go into "sales mode," it makes someone less prone to rant or pick a fight.

And remember! When we have a political position, we should be doing the same thing.

Bonus Advice: no matter who starts talking about the Syrian refugee crisis, don't compare it to the British pilgrims, Native Americans, or Thanksgiving. You will win no points with anyone. We promise. 


For some more guidance, take a look at some of our earlier articles:

You're welcome, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Hopefully our overseas readers will also get something out of this.

Let us know any success stories in comments below!


Erik Fogg

We do politics, but we don't do the thinking for you.