Manner Monday: Comfortable Conversation at the Dinner Table

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We’ve all been there.  The family (Aunt, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents – and the one’s you see only once a year) … gathered together for a special celebration such as Thanksgiving, when the conversation turns sour and leaves everyone wiggling in their chair wishing they were someplace else.  We all know there’s no way to guarantee comfortable conversation, but there are some things you can do to steer it in the right direction.

Assigned seating:  It helps to take the guess work out of where everyone will sit and you’re also able to corral “Uncle Tom” between you and your sister… who will be able to help you keep him in check.

Place Cards:  You can use something as simple as a piece of card stock, or you can do something fun such as a pinecone with the persons name tied to it with construction paper or ribbon.  You can also do something a bit more special such as a mini picture frame with your guest’s name, or photo, in it that they can take home with them as cherished memento.  If you have a little one, have them get in on the place card task; they love being included and can add an artistic touch that everyone will appreciate.

Conversation starters:  Another benefit of place cards, you can place a question on each place card that helps to get the conversation going.  Planting questions is a fabulous way to get the family talking and to share stories from ‘days gone by’ and create wonderful family memories you will treasure for a lifetime.

Here are some sample questions:

  • Tell us about your favorite childhood Thanksgiving memory.
  • What was life like before Cell Phones and VCRs?
  • What are you most thankful for this year?
  • What is your most memorable school picture?
  • What special childhood memory do you have of a family member who is no longer with us?
  • What luxuries do you take for granted and why are you thankful for them?
  • Which teacher were you most grateful for?
  • What is your favorite memory from grade school?
  • How did you meet?  Tell us about your first date.  (This is a great one for the Grandparents.)
  • What family recipe reminds you of something special?
  • Tell about a time when you were reminded “it’s better to give than receive”.
  • Thinking of the pilgrims and their adventure, what do you think it would be like to leave everyone and everything behind and move to a new country…without a job secured?
  • What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your life?
  • What do you appreciate most about the person on your right?

As people are answering their questions, think of saying things such as “tell us more” instead of cutting them short to share your version or answer.

Tech check:  (You knew I’d include this one!)  Turn the TV off and leave your cell phone at the front door (or in the car).  Take this time to focus on your family and the conversation, not your technology.

What are your tricks to keeping the conversation comfortable at your Thanksgiving table?  Please leave a comment below to share your tips and stories.  I’ll be giving away a Manner Monday placemat to a lucky winner who leaves a comment or shares a story from their Thanksgiving dinner.  I will randomly draw the winning name on Monday, November 28.

Happy Thanksgiving!  …and may the conversation be comfortable!

Here is the link to last weeks post on Setting the Table

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