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A happy family talking over Thanksgiving dinner while avoiding controversial topics.

7 Controversial Topics You Should NOT Discuss at Thanksgiving (and 7 You Should)

Arguing politics over the turkey? Steer your family away from these seven controversial topics at Thanksgiving dinner with these seven conversation starters.

With large crowds of family and friends at Thanksgiving, it’s hard to control the conversations. Steer your family away from controversial topics with these fourteen things to discuss and NOT discuss at Thanksgiving dinner.

DON’T Discuss

1. How You Feel about the Current President

Politics is one of the most controversial topics, especially if there are varying opinions among family members. While staying informed is important, Thanksgiving might not be the best time to delve into controversial current events. If you don’t want to start the Smith Family Civil War, perhaps you should lay these topics to rest for another day.

DO Discuss: What You’ve Been Up To

Stories are great dinner conversation when you’re catching up with relatives and friends you haven’t seen in a while. Keep your stories lighthearted and invite others to talk about their lives as well (but only what they’re willing to share). Laughter is a great way to bond and create a positive atmosphere.

DON’T Discuss

2. Why You Stopped Going to Church

Like politics, religion can be a sensitive subject for many people, especially if your beliefs are going against your family’s social norms. Even if you start the conversation with the best of intentions, some people won’t take it that way. It might come off as being “preachy” or “solicitous.” To avoid all these pesky pitfalls, it’s best to avoid any religious discussions that your family will find controversial or upsetting.

(The one caveat being if religion is a big part of your life and if your family and guests share a common belief and enjoy discussing religion. In that case, it’s not completely off the table. Just make sure not to overdo it, otherwise people might start getting uncomfortable.)

Instead, people enjoy discussing this far more:

DO Discuss: What You Like Doing in Your Spare Time

Do you love reading? Traveling? Did you go to that big concert the other week? Hobbies and interests are the perfect topic for Thanksgiving dinner. This not only helps you have a great conversation but bond with your guests. Maybe next time, you can invite a family member or friend to share your hobby.

DON’T Discuss

3. The New Loan You Just Took Out at the Bank

Money matters can be touchy, so it’s generally best to avoid discussions about personal finances, salaries, or any financial challenges someone might be facing. While the topic might not seem all that troublesome at first, especially if you just asked your brother-in-law a harmless question about how much his car cost, money talk can quickly spoil a good dinner with jealousy, bitterness, and even embarrassment.

DO Discuss: How You Just Got Engaged

Achievements and milestones are an important part of your life, and Thanksgiving is a great place to share them. It’s the perfect time to celebrate with your family and friends. But again, don’t over discuss it. Happy and positive, this topic won’t outright lead to a divisive argument, but you can’t control how other people feel when all they hear is how amazing you are. Instead, ask others about their own lives and accomplishments. And when all else fails, use these conversation starters to keep any one topic from souring.

DON’T Discuss

4. The Fight You Just Had with Your Significant Other

Thanksgiving is a time for celebration, not airing personal grievances. Things will get super awkward if you decide to fight it out with your sibling over stuffing and gravy. Whether they involve family members or friends, avoid discussing relationship problems or conflicts. You won’t find answers to your problems at dinner, as great as Grandma’s sweet potatoes are.

DO Discuss: How Great Susie’s Pie Is

Thanksgiving is all about food, so that’s a great topic that you can bring up naturally when parents keep badgering about grandkids and lifestyle choices. Start with the meal in front of you, give lots and lots of compliments, and share favorite recipes, cooking tips, or new dishes you’ve tried.

DON’T Discuss

5. The Weight Your Cousin Gained

Weight is clearly one of the worst controversial topics, but there are plenty more personal criticisms you should avoid. Avoid making critical comments about someone’s lifestyle choices, parenting decisions, career, or any other personal aspect of their life. Thanksgiving is a time to focus on gratitude and positivity.

DO Discuss: How Your Mom Saved Thanksgiving Dinner

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, dinner is the perfect time to give gratitude and encouragement. Take the time to compliment everyone. Studies have shown that giving compliments increases happiness and gratitude and creates a ripple of positivity. So if you want to save your Thanksgiving dinner, start by creating a warm, inviting atmosphere.

DON’T Discuss

6. Your Nephew’s Dating Life (Or Lack Thereof)

Engaging in gossip, specifically harmful gossip, can lead to a negative atmosphere. As natural as it is to talk about other people, try to keep the conversation positive and uplifting. And be mindful of family issues that might be sensitive or emotional because past conflicts are some of the most painful controversial topics. After all, family secrets can create tension.

DO Discuss: How Great Aunt Betty Started the Annual Turkey Bowl

Discussing family traditions can really bring more meaning to the holiday. Whether it’s a turkey bowl or the Jell-O salad that nobody likes but is a Thanksgiving staple, discuss your favorite Thanksgiving traditions or memories. You can also talk about any new traditions you’d like to start.

DON’T Discuss

7. How Your Cousin Should Stop Letting Their Child Eat Snacks Before Dinner

Family and friends are great at giving advice, even when it’s not wanted. But Thanksgiving dinner is not the time or place (if there ever is one). While well-intentioned, offering unsolicited advice can sometimes be perceived as intrusive. Be mindful of giving advice unless it’s explicitly sought. And if someone tries to offer you unwanted advice, quietly change the subject to one everyone will find more pleasant.

DO Discuss: This Year’s Highlights and What You’re Looking Forward to Next Year

Gratitude is a classic Thanksgiving topic, but you don’t have to go around the circle and give thanks. Just start a conversation by discussing what you’re grateful for this year. It’s a great way to reflect on the past year and to encourage an uplifting atmosphere as everyone shares the best parts of their lives. And you can even take the opportunity to look ahead at the new year and think about your goals.

You’ll find that there’s a lot to look forward to, including better, stronger conversations and relationships with your family.

Find More Ways to Share Gratitude with These Books

The cover of the gratitude journal Daily Thanks.

Daily Thanks

The cover of the board book Good Morning, World—I Love You So

Good Morning, World—I Love You So

The cover of the board book Thankful Animals, Thankful Me.

Thankful Animals, Thankful Me

Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.

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