Ah, here comes the Thanksgiving holiday! We look forward to the feasting and bringing people together... don’t we? The cooking with love and fond memories around the table draws us, and we look forward to those we’ve not seen in some time and reconnecting. BUT. Holidays can bring out the demons and quivering vulnerabilities of being with people who “know us” better than anyone (or at least they think so).
Uncle Harry, "I've got your nose!". Aunt Sandra who ever-so helpfully knows just the RIGHT way to make whatever it is you so proudly made. For Sandra Thanksgiving will never be the same because I refuse to make that awful green bean casserole. Now Sandra’s holiday is ruined. Ruined!
Questions about your judgment, job, partner, hair color, vegetarianism, and politics can leave you hiding in the bathroom, having to "just run to the store", or out behind the garage smoking.
Is your anxiety rising? I hear you.
So let’s take a breath and shift our focus. Instead of bracing for the stress and pre-destining things, how about we take the holiday as a chance to renew bonds with loved ones, share in our triumphs, celebrate our connections, and bask in the warmth of family and friends!
Meet people where they are
The holiday table should be a bridge, not a barrier to be battled over. Remember that the goal is not to avoid all challenging conversations, but to approach them with a mindset of respect and understanding. In this way, we create a space where everyone feels valued andunderstood.
We don’t have to push back on the beliefs of others or enlighten them on how wrong they are. Instead, listening with full attention, showing that you value the person even if you don’t agree. Acknowledge, don't argue. If necessary, agree to disagree, and do so respectfully.
It's wise and kind to others to avoid topics that are likely to cause conflict.
You can always guide the conversation toward neutral or even joyful territories
with some of these conversation starters.
Invite everyone to share something they’re grateful for. This creates a positive environment and allows people to learn about each other’s joys and appreciation.
The good times
Encourage the sharing of favorite holiday memories. This can lead to laughter, shared experiences, and a realization of common experiences or feelings.
Discuss places everyone would love to visit. This often reveals shared interests and can lead to fascinating conversations about culture and travel.
Books and movies
Share books or movies that have been impactful or enjoyable. This opens up discussions about shared interests without delving into personal beliefs.
What do you do for FUN?
Discuss hobbies or activities that you're passionate about. This can lead to discovering shared interests or learning something new about each other.
Making the most of the opportunity
The holiday table can be more than just an excuse for a meal; it can be a catalyst for deeper connections, understanding, and unity. By approaching our conversations with curiosity, empathy, and compassion, and focusing on topics that bring us together, rather than separate us, we create an environment where
everyone feels valued and heard.