Tips for keeping the peace at the Thanksgiving table - WNEM TV 5

Tips for keeping the peace at the Thanksgiving table

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A time honored tradition during Thanksgiving is gathering around the dinner table with family and relatives, but so often what was supposed to be a time to reconnect becomes a time of arguments, anger and resentment.

Tension builds as conversations that start on friendly terms turn into heated discussions and eventually into some kind of a dispute that you didn’t anticipate.

However, the day doesn’t have to end that way. 

Use these seven tips from Dr. Thomas Haller to help you avoid and defuse potentially volatile conversations and navigate through the day in harmony.

1. Stay aware of who you are, today.

You are an accumulation of all your experiences to the current date. Remind yourself that the role you played in the family when you were a child is not the same role you have to play today. As the family interacts it is common for some to revert to old patterns of behavior. This tends to entice others to do the same resulting in patterns of interaction that took place in childhood. You’re an adult now. You don’t have to act the way you did when you were younger.

2. Know the players

Before you sit down at the dinner table review the people who are going to be present and what you know about them. If you have a cousin or uncle who typically makes off handed remarks or finds delight in asking embarrassing questions be prepared to handle the situation in a polite manner. If you’re rudely asked, “Are you still single?” don’t reply with a defensive excuse. Say, “Yes, and I’ll let you know when that changes.” If your cousin suggests that you change your hairstyle, politely respond by saying, “Thank you for the suggestion. I’ll think about it.” Then move the conversation to a different topic.

3. It’s never about you

There is usually one person in the family who thinks they are right about everything. They focus on making themselves right and others wrong. They are judgmental and quick to point out the faults of others.  Don’t get hooked. Judgement reveals more about the one doing the judging then it does about the person being judged. Judgments are always about the judges. When you hear a critical statement from Aunt Janette say to yourself, “This is more about her than it is about me.” Then smile and say, “Thank you for tell me that…” and in your head you add, “…about you.”

4. Change the subject

Identify a few subjects that you are not willing to talk about and be prepared to politely change the topic. If Uncle Dave starts in about the election results and you really don’t want to talk about politics this year, calmly redirect the conversation by saying, “I’m sure you have some particular insights on the matter. Let’s talk about them at a different time.” Then ask a question that points the discussion to a topic that is less controversial.

5. Not every question needs an immediate answer

When you are asked a question that you didn’t see coming, it’s okay to delay your response. For example, if your sister suggests that you host the family Christmas party or your mom volunteers you to watch all the kids while she and your sister’s go shopping on Black Friday, briefly delay your answer. Instead of offering an immediate response that may be filled with anger or criticism buy yourself a little time by saying, “Let me get back to you on that.” This will give you the needed time to move up in consciousness, process a decision and formulate a calm answer; one that you can deliver later.

6. Use conversation terminators

Some topics are just not worth arguing about. You may have a strong opinion on the subject don’t feel like getting into it at the moment. That’s when you use a conversation terminator to end the discussion in a casual, non-confrontational manner. Here are a few conversation terminators to consider: “You could be right about that.” “Thank you for sharing your opinion.” “That’s an interesting point of view.” “I haven’t thought of it that way before.” “You’ve given me something more to think about.”  By responding in this way you have not agreed or disagreed. Once you’ve delivered your conversation terminator, peacefully transition to a different topic.

7. Recognize your limits

Take care of yourself by monitoring your emotional state. If you’re feeling irritation, annoyance or anger, take a break. If you’re starting to get tired of biting your tongue or changing the subject politely excuse yourself. It is okay to leave the room for a few minutes and return when you’re feeling calm. The “time away” will help you to regain a sense of internal peace and provide the needed attitude to return to the family festivities.

A peaceful Thanksgiving dinner is within your grasp. These tips can not only help you get through Thanksgiving Day but other holiday gatherings with your extended-family. In fact, you might want to consider using them throughout the rest of the year as well.

Create the Thanksgiving experience you desire!

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