Thanksgiving Conversation Survival Guide

Updated on September 2, 2019
Carolyn M Fields profile image

Carolyn Fields is a lifelong learner, musician, author, world traveler, truth enthusiast, and all around bon vivant.

These conversations could save your thanksgiving!
These conversations could save your thanksgiving! | Source


I learned at an early age that there were two taboo topics when talking with strangers, co-workers, and/or long lost family members: religion and politics. In today’s divisive political scene, this could not be truer, or more important. I would add that there are several other related topics that might also get you into a shouting match (e.g. professional football and the national anthem, tax cuts, health care, immigration, and the “wall,” to name just a few).

So, what are the alternatives? How do you have a nice, civil dinner conversation? Here are some techniques to help you survive the holidays.

Agree to Disagree

It may sound simplistic, but one of the very first things you need to do when friends and family gather is to set some ground rules. Before anyone has finished their first cocktail, you need to declare your home (or other gathering location) an official satellite nation of Switzerland. If your geopolitical knowledge is a bit fuzzy, let me remind you why that’s significant. Switzerland is the oldest neutral country in the world. Since the Treaty of Paris in 1815, it has not fought in a single foreign war.

As a neutral location, your guests are prohibited from attacking anyone, about anything. They may disagree all they like, but personal attacks are strictly prohibited. You may have to enforce this rule once or twice, typically by calling out the offender for violating the terms of the treaty. Usually people will want to voluntarily participate in this rule. Trust me; pretty much everybody is sick and tired of all the strife in today’s news cycle.


Have Alternative Topics Ready

So you’ve decided not to “talk politics.” Now what? Usually people will take a few minutes to discuss holiday traffic (e.g., golly the airports are packed) and the weather (e.g., it sure got cold early this year). But that’s only going to fill up five minutes. You need to have more ideas in mind before that first awkward silence.

Fun Alternative Topics for Thanksgiving

  • Fond Memories: This one can fill up hours if you have the right people at your table. Share favorite vacation spots, happy graduations, and the like. The only trick here is to keep it from becoming a competition. Try to keep it light and friendly. Encourage people to remember the “good old times.”
  • Story Game: This one is fun because it doesn’t involve reality. You will need at least three or more people involved to pull this one off, but it’s worth the effort. It’s a round robin technique, where you create a story “on the fly.” Begin with, “Once upon a time,” or “It was a dark a stormy night.” Then add one outrageous idea to get the ball rolling. For example, “Once upon a time, there was a young girl who found a magical talking rabbit in the forest. The first thing the rabbit said was...” Then turn to the next person to continue the narrative. Try for a happy ending, and specify a number of minimum “rounds” to complete. It’s a game for the whole family. And it can be played multiple times.
  • Craziest Thing You’ve Ever Done: You can make this topic rated “G” for the family, or rated “R” if it’s just the adults. It can range from a crazy diet (e.g., I ate only grapefruit and bacon for a week) to travel (e.g., I traveled across Europe with nothing but my backpack and a rail pass), and beyond.

More Approved Topics for Thanksgiving

  • Movies—newest, fondest, worst, etc.
  • Books—recent, classic, required reading, etc.
  • Wellness Trends—fitness topics, alternative treatments, etc.
  • Upcoming Recreation—travel, staycations, concerts, etc.

More Taboo Topics for Thanksgiving

  • Gossip about people who are not there
  • Office or work stories (there are exceptions to this one, but office politics are generally to be avoided)
  • Serious Illnesses in the family (these should be private conversations)
  • Bad grades, incomplete homework, poor school performance

Gratitude and Family

The most important tip I can provide is to remember that Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time to remember our blessings, and share time with family and friends. If you are the host, it is important to lead your gathering in the right direction. Hopefully some of these suggestions will help. If you have more ideas, please share them in the comments below.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Submit a Comment
  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    2 years ago from South Dakota, USA

    Thanks for reading, Larry!

  • Larry Rankin profile image

    Larry Rankin 

    2 years ago from Oklahoma

    Great tips!

  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    2 years ago from South Dakota, USA

    Finn Liam, I have a slightly different world view. I think that the topics we keep coming back to, are the ones where we have unresolved emotions, not necessarily the topics we wish to avoid. Some conversation is healthy to get these feelings out, especially with a trusted audience. When it becomes a shouting match, then it is no longer healthy. This is your back-up plan for that event. Enjoy your day!

  • wpcooper profile image


    2 years ago from Barstow

    yes some nice tips and you manage to retain a good moral sense (avoiding gossip about people who are NOT there e.g.).

    but talk will always eventually center in on the topics people want to avoid.

    Happy day

  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    2 years ago from South Dakota, USA

    Denise, thanks for reading. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • denise.w.anderson profile image

    Denise W Anderson 

    2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

    Thanks for the tips! We will take this to heart and hopefully, have a much more happy Thanksgiving!

  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    2 years ago from South Dakota, USA

    Thank you, Stella. I'm glad I could help.

  • stelaligizaki profile image

    Stella Aligizaki 

    2 years ago from Greece

    Nice article. We do not have Thanksgiving dinner in Greece but I will follow your tips on other holiday occasions. Thank you.

  • Carolyn M Fields profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Fields 

    2 years ago from South Dakota, USA

    Thanks for reading, breakfastpop!

  • breakfastpop profile image


    2 years ago

    I will hope for the best, but steel myself for the worst!!!!!


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)