Debates and arguments around the dinner table are big Thanksgiving traditions with many families. Here are some tips to avoid having a good-natured discussion become a great deal more serious.
Driving angry after dinner can cause encounters with local law enforcement for speeding and Reckless Driving. Leaving a dinner party early after drinking too much can lead to a DUI. Thanksgiving dinner fights can also end tragically in violence.
To try to deal with, mitigate or avoid unwanted political arguments during your Thanksgiving feast, Associate Professor of Psychology Sean Duffy, from Rutgers-Camden has some tips to keep in mind if and when the discussion begins to turn mean and nasty.
1) Discuss any potentially large disagreements before dinner.
First, dinner time is the point where everyone is holding sharp objects which is obviously not a good time to stir up anger and resentment.
“Family members may agree to put their differences aside for the day and just enjoy one another’s company,” said Duffy in an interview with Jason Laday. “If an argument starts at the table, ask that it be put aside for the day and deal with it on Friday. Thanksgiving should not be the time that grievances are aired.” The proper holiday for airing grievances is Festivus. To learn how to properly celebrate Festivus, click here.
2) Keep a sense of humor.
“Another strategy is if someone says something you disagree with, count to twenty in your head before responding,” he added. “Usually your first response will be hasty and emotional — give yourself some time to come up with a measured response.”
“For certain situations, I think detached humor is a good strategy,” Duffy said. “Tolerate that uncle with extreme political views as a funny aside to an otherwise good day. Let him call Obama a Kenyan communist, and laugh about it later — at the end of the day they are just silly words.”
It is also fun to look at the dinner as a Saturday Night Live skit, Fairfax Criminal Defense Lawyer Alex Gordon suggests. Imagine which comedians, past or present, from SNL would play your relatives. Check out Thanksgiving dinner with Debbi Downer.
3) Remember that most disagreements — and especially those about politics or money — tend to be pretty small in the grand scheme of life
Life can be fragile and you never know what may happen in the coming months. Money can be replaced and elections change the political landscape every two years it seems. Focus on generating fun memories, not on winning or getting your point across. Save that for emailing on a different day other than Thanksgiving.
4) There is a reason why “Don’t bring up politics or religion” is a saying that has been passed down through generations. The same goes for the credo of “Silence is golden.”
“Thanksgiving is about celebrating the harvest and enjoying the company of family,” said Duffy. “Political or religious debate should be punishable by banishment into the kitchen to wash dishes.” If a controversial topic arises, if no one responds to the instigator — the discussion ends. Treat that abrasive political comment like a tree falling in a forest with nobody around. Let it crash in silence.
Jason Laday originally wrote parts of this article for the South Jersey Times