Ah, Thanksgiving, a day to put our cooking skills and our aptitude for non-violent conflict resolution to the test.
Families around the country will come together this Thursday to eat, drink, give thanks and remember that time a few hundred years ago when groups of people from different backgrounds and with disparate beliefs managed to come together to eat dinner in peace.
And if they can do it, so can we.
Any family gathering holds the possibility of disagreements among members of different generations or with conflicting political views, but with political tensions running especially high post-election, a universal dread has settled over many holiday travelers heading home this week. How do you avoid a showdown at the dinner table? We asked Lizzie Post, great-great-grandaughter of Emily Post and the host of Awesome Etiquette podcast, to share her advice on how to diffuse difficult conversations, avoid outbursts and keep the peace at your party.
“There are few ways to handle tough conversations, like political arguments,” Post says. “First, you can set expectations before the meal even begins by saying something like, ‘It has been a crazy year and I would like to ask that we not talk politics. We all have a lot to catch up and connect over.’” If none of your guests are dead set on a debate, this could be enough to salvage a civilized dinner.
If things take a turn as the conversation (and alcohol) flows, Post says, “It’s important to redirect, not correct so everyone feels comfortable. For example, I recommend saying something like, ‘John, I’d love to get away from politics (or finances, religion, romantic drama, etc.) and hear about your vacation to the Grand Canyon.’”
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She explains, “By turning the conversation to more personal topics and encouraging discussion, you can be sure not offend any of the guests while also maintaining a positive atmosphere at the table.”
This is all well and good if your family is on the mellow side, but Post does have a failsafe plan for that one rowdy uncle who can’t take a hint. “If you try to redirect the conversation a few times and it is not working, as the host, it is completely appropriate for you to say, with a smile and a friendly, firm tone, ‘We are finished talking politics at the table.’ And then once again, begin a new positive conversation.”
And if that doesn’t work, we have solid evidence that an Adele sing-a-long is a solid plan Z.
Post has partnered with the Bob Evans Holiday Helpline, to answer your hosting and entertaining questions this holiday season. Call (855) 4MY-TABLE and talk to an expert. Visit www.bobevans.com/holidayhelp for hours and additional tips to make your holiday smooth and stress free.