I kicked off a recent Thanksgiving holiday season by having an argument with my friend and neighbor the rocket scientist about extraordinary rendition and the effect of immigrant workers on the economy.
I knew I’d lost all sense of perspective around midnight as I continued searching for and emailing Tony articles that proved me right, while Mr. Thrifty snored softly beside me, intermittently awakening to say “I thought you said you were going to go to sleep?”
Embarrassing, but true.
A little more than a week from today, tens of millions of people will be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family they haven’t discussed politics, sex or religion with for at least one full year.
For those of you who find you just can’t help yourself, I provide the following resources.
First, I give you Ben Stein’s Top Ten Tips for Having a Business Conversation — appropriately entitled “How Not to Ruin Your Life.” They will serve you at the Thanksgiving table every bit as well as they will save you from self-destruction at your next firm retreat.
If you simply cannot avoid a political conversation this Thanksgiving, do yourself a favor by taking a brief look at the Public Conversations Project’s Eleven Ideas for Making a Hard Conversation Work before the relatives arrive.
Finally, as much for myself as my for readers, I give you my own personal top six tips for Thanksgiving Day conversation.
1. Before diving in to a spirited dialogue about the use of fetuses for stem cell research with your second helping of mashed potatoes, ask yourself whether you are emotionally ready to resist the strong pull to hit your conversational partner over the head with a turkey leg. If not, open your mouth only to say something kind or grateful or to shove another helping of stuffing into it.
2. If you just can’t help yourself from responding to Aunt Gertrude’s (somewhat drunken) assertion that “torture is too good for terrorists,” any of the following will do.
Can I pour you another drink?
Uuh huh, uh huh, uh huh
tell me more
how do you feel about that?
I couldn’t have said it better myself; do let me call you a taxi.
3. For the academically minded,
I have a couple of dozen articles on that issue. If you’ll give me your email address, I’ll pass them along to you.
4. For the cousin from Alabama,
5. Avoid stereotyping people from Montgomery, Alabama.
6. As the Public Conversations Project advises,
Thinking before speaking is a good idea.
Have a great Thanksgiving and remember —Ben Franklin thought the National Bird should be a turkey!
Then think again and offer Aunt Gertrude another piece of pumpkin pie.
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