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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

10 Comments

  1. heidi cecil says:

    Found you on the peoples chamber! This is fantastic! I love the ideas! You have a new fan:)

    1. Host says:

      Thanks for stopping by! See you at TPC! 🙂

  2. I grew up in a home where many topics were commonly tiptoed around and all of us kids were fabulous at avoiding Dad’s red-hot buttons.

    However, as an adult, I’m doing my best to unlearn such control. Achieving this has taken some soul searching and helped me realize:
    1) most things in life I can’t control–no one can. I often can’t control my own behaviour as well as I’d like, never mind someone who is a psychological bully or worse.
    2) the other person’s behaviour has nothing to do with me. It’s totally their own thing and it’s easier to hear the comment, softly chuckle and respond with–well, that’s one perspective–or just carry on with the conversations I do want to have and let the person to whom the comment/ugliness was directed take care of themselves in whatever capacity they are able.
    3) awkward and even painful moments are part of life. Obviously, it’s not a good idea to seek them out and/or cause them, but grace in the middle of someone else’s storm both to the embittered and to the rest of the family can bring great healing.
    4) sometimes spades need to be called and that’s often not comfortable
    5) I typically only want to confront someone with whom there’s a good enough relationship that I can walk the issue through with them. If that foundation is not there, I am better to find another way to cope
    6) don’t tackle someone else’s business. Far too often, I’d take an insult directed at me, but go into battle to protect someone else. I had to realize that they were adults too and that I was not helping them grow up when I advocated for them. That was their job to handle in whatever way they were able.

    1. Host says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment!!
      I love all of your points. Especially #1…I’m continuously trying to work on that one! It’s an uphill struggle.

  3. Imogene says:

    As a child, I never remember having Turkey for Thanksgiving…living 9 miles from the coast of SC, we had roasted oysters outside over an open fire…imagine that in OKC…but does not stop me from wanting it again…Thanksgivings are for making memories….

    1. Host says:

      Yes, Memories are so precious!!! I think you need to start that tradition in OKC… Unfortunately the locals here might think you’re fixing “Rocky Mountain Oysters”. 🙂

  4. These are great suggestions. Sometimes its a little awkward starting the conversation with Cousin Susie who I haven’t seen in a few years but played dolls with and have great holiday memories growing up. Having ice breaker cards has been a great way to bring life to the conversation without anyone feeling rushed, pushed, or uncomfortable. I have a very large extended family. My dad is one of 12 kids in his family so family gatherings are very chaotic and these organized activities make it easier to manage through all the hand shaking, hugs, and catching up.

    Thank you Carey Sue!

    JMM

    1. Host says:

      Great comment about Cousin Susie… when you haven’t seen someone in such a long time, it definitely can be a bit awkward kicking things off. I’d like to be a fly on the wall at one of your events with your dad and his siblings. I’m thinking name tags would be in order! Thanks for the comment!

  5. Host says:

    We very strategically placed all names in a cup and had our 5yo son draw….
    Drum roll please…..
    the winner of the place mat is….
    Janice Hughes!!! … and the crowd goes wild.
    Congratulations Janice. I’ll shoot you an email with details.
    Thanks everyone for commenting!

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