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‘Tis the season for turkey, family, and all the conversations that come from families getting together to eat turkey. At least for me Thanksgiving tends to be a fun holiday and I enjoy visiting with family, but I also have seen how discussions can sometimes get a bit heated. I know some readers’ families might have rather homogeneous political/religious beliefs and/or sport allegiances, but that has not exactly been my experience with my family (with my numerous aunts and uncles)—especially since the rise of Trump. Of course, there are definitely times and ways in which discussion of controversial topics like politics and religion is healthy, but one should be mindful about this, with consideration given to the specifics of you and/or your family. The problem is that some of us (including me) may have a tendency/drive to get into arguments… even when it may not be the best of ideas.

I certainly can’t speak to every person’s interactions with their families, but I figured I would write this short article to provide a few alternative discussion topics to help you just in case you think it would be best to redirect your family discussion towards something less tense/more civil. 

Alternative Topic Categories

Broadly speaking, there are at least three good types of topics to redirect to: Something that all of you can agree on; Things that you can at least agree to disagree about; Things which don’t involve disagreement/argument at all. I can’t speak for most people’s situations regarding the first type, but the following list includes some general examples of the latter two topic types:

  1. Past Thanksgivings (or other holidays)
    • “What’s the best/funniest Thanksgiving memory you have?”
    • “What’s the best dish you’ve had/made for Thanksgiving?”
  2. Life experiences
    • “What was it like when you were in college”
    • “What was your first/worst job?”
  3. (Internet) humor, such as popular, tasteful, and accessible memes or funny stories in the news (e.g., the Florida dog that drove its owner’s car in circles).
  4. Arts/culture:
    • Music
    • Movies
    • Books
  5. Sports (but do be careful around rivalries and politics in sports, such as with kneeling in the NFL)
  6. Annoyances (pet peeves), such as spam calls.
  7. Actual pets (especially if you know that someone has a new pet)
  8. Perhaps my personal favorite, absurdities:


Ultimately, there is a time and place for discussions of controversial topics; it may be beneficial to talk about important political topics/beliefs (e.g., impeachment) and learn about other people’s perspectives, for example. Thus, I am not trying to encourage anyone to totally avoid dicey topics with family; I simply hope this list can help you to think of alternative topics to redirect to when things are becoming too heated and even counterproductive (or you just feel a deep urge to argue about something but don’t want to get into a heated argument with your deeply opinionated aunt/uncle/cousin).

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