Pass the stuffing not the uncomfortable conversation this Thanksgiving

Nov 23, 2022, 3:48 PM | Updated: 3:51 pm
Thanksgiving dinner with all the sides. (Stock photo)...
Thanksgiving dinner with all the sides. (Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

SALT LAKE CITY — Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate what you are grateful for with loved ones, as well as a time to bust out your favorite pair of stretchy pants. But this doesn’t come without its fair share of awkward conversations while passing the cranberry sauce. 

These come in many forms. Anything from the bold and uncomfortable, “so when are you kids going to finally tie the knot and have a kid?” To the subtle shade like, “oh, I see you are getting a BIG slice of pie again.” And you can’t forget the classics like, “WOW, you voted for THAT guy?” and, “So what do you think about – insert hot button issue here?”

Anyone of these conversations is sure to start a gobble-squabble at the dinner table. Tom Golightly is the assistant director of athletics, counseling, and psychological services at Brigham Young University. He spoke with Dave & Dujanovic about how to keep conversations civil on Turkey Day. 

“Research is really clear that we’re not going to change anyone’s opinion around the dinner table,” said Golightly.

 Golightly continued that we need to avoid an “I win, you lose” situation with our families. Because ultimately, we just want to have a good time with them.

“If we can kind of shift the tone to be like, let me understand, let me be curious, and not really judge or getting a debate to win. And if we seek that understanding, then we kind of hit the sweet spot of why we’re interacting, which is generally to foster respect and affection. That’s why we’re together on a holiday,” said Golightly.


How to handle the uncomfortable Thanksgiving conversations

Now, in theory, Golightly’s observations are spot on. But in practice, there is always someone in the family who likes to ruffle the feathers. Ultimately, if you feel like putting the plate down and getting into a gobble-squabble, Golightly advises you to examine your relationship with the other person first.  

“Do I have enough trust and positivity with this person to have this discussion?” he said. “And if I can’t answer yes to that, I’m probably not wanting to engage that, because that person is just wanting to start some controversy.”

And just because you do feel comfortable having those conversations with a person doesn’t mean you have to, said Golightly. He continued and said that the best way to avoid these conversations, is to tell the other person how you feel.

“Speak personally, not along a party line, or an organizational line. But here’s how this impacts me. And if we talk about our feelings, it’s really hard for someone to say you don’t feel that way. Whereas if you pick up on on a policy or something that’s more broad, that’s political in nature, it’s a lot easier to pick up the debate.”

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Pass the stuffing not the uncomfortable conversation this Thanksgiving