Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year: the change of seasons, quality time with family and (let's not forget) pumpkin-spice ev-er-y-thing.
But for many, the holidays also bring the stress of confronting (or not confronting) family and friends who have differing values or beliefs — a conflict that’s particularly strong in today’s polarized political climate. While it can be difficult, this time can also be an opportunity. To reconnect and rediscover what makes us similar. To deepen relationships and spark new connections. To plug into our powers of empathy and understanding. A meaningful conversation can be the most powerful tool we have for bringing people together. Sometimes, all that is missing is the right questions.
With a multi-generational table, it can be hard to know what conversation-starters will draw out fun stories from a quiet uncle or keep a younger cousin engaged. Here are a few tips and questions to make your meal more memorable this November.
Keep it casual. Just because you are being intentional about asking questions doesn't mean this needs to feel like an interview. Keep things loose — ask follow-up questions, be interested, and be open!
Listen. A good conversation requires the people who are not talking to actively listen. Try and understand what someone is saying, without interrupting, talking over them or immediately rushing in with advice or a counter-story.
Be patient. Give time and space to the old, young, and shy to speak their mind. Everyone should get an equal chance to express themselves.
Make it fun! Sometimes asking a deep question can feel intense or awkward in a casual setting. This is where a game can help. A deck of conversation cards can take the awkwardness away — you can always “blame the card” for asking the tough question :-).
Icebreakers are the appetizers of good conversation, giving us a taste of what's to come and leaving us hungry for more. Here are a few easy icebreaker questions to whet the table’s appetite:
Now that everyone is warmed up, take things to the next level. These questions should help people dig deeper, open up, and share more meaningful thoughts, feelings and stories:
I hope that these tips and sampling of questions from our Reflection Cards will help you host a warm and welcoming dinner.
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Originally published on Mindful Matter.