All right. I’m going to cut to the chase. In just two days, you’re going to be gathered around a Thanksgiving table peopled with your family members and friends. Here are some “tiny tips” and book recommendations for boosting conversations and for creating family harmony to make this your most memorable Turkey Day–for the right reasons! As Ina Garten said, “It doesn’t really matter what the occasion–big or small–it’s the connections that we have with people we love that nourish our souls.” Best wishes for a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving!
Pie vs. Cake
When you’re in a conversation and you run out of easy topics and your mind freezes up, out of the blue, ask the person to choose between two things. Then ask why?
A few Examples:
-Pie vs. cake
-Snake vs. turtle
-Caffeine-free vs. gluten-free for the rest of your life
-Immortality vs. guaranteed death at sixty-seven
-Snickers vs. Payday
-Breaking up in person vs. breaking up by phone or text
-Lion vs. tiger (pet)
(From the book: What to Talk About)
Give a Thumbs Up
Eliminate negative thoughts. Joey Reiman, author of Thumbs Up, says: “Zap a negative thought and try reacting with a Thumbs Up response. Share the love. Show your appreciation and gratitude. It’s about banishing the negative, blaming, finger-pointing thoughts that underestimate the power of good.”
So on the way to your party, start practicing in the car by giving a thumbs up to your fellow drivers!
In the wonderful new book The Book of Joy about the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, the author describes how when the Dalai Lama greets you, “He takes your hand and then rubs it tenderly, as a grandparent might. He looks into your eyes, feels deeply what you are feeling, and touches his forehead to yours.” Amazingly, the Dalai Lama does this for each new person he meets. In short, he is wholly present for each person he is interacting with, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future–just present in the moment. How delightful!
Good-hearted, gentle persuasion was Lincoln’s way. In his inspiring little book, The Words Lincoln Lived By, Gene Griesman notes that even in Lincoln’s great debates with Douglas, “Lincoln is colloquial, affable, good-natured, almost jolly. He states the case at issue with so much easy good humor and fairness that his opponents are almost persuaded he is not an opponent at all.” I had to include this one knowing that it’s possible that politics might come up this year.
Ask quality questions
Showing a genuine curiosity about other people is important, and you can enhance the quality of your conversations by asking open-ended questions. These are questions that go beyond “yes” and “no” and “just the facts.” Open-ended questions tend to begin with “why” and “how.” For example, “How did you develop an interest in that?” Follow up a more factual question with “Tell me more.”
In his edifying book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I’m really going to work on this one this year!
One More Thing: StoryCorps, the wonderful organization whose mission it is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and to create a more just and compassionate world, is undertaking an initiative this Thanksgiving called #TheGreatListen, which encourages high school students to record conversations with a grandparent or other elder over the holiday weekend in order to share stories and to preserve them for all to hear and to benefit from. Here’s a link to a list of wonderful questions (which you might just want to use at your own Thanksgiving table!). https://storycorps.me/question-generator/