Tomorrow’s the big day. Perhaps this year you’re gathering with extended family you have not only not seen since you were 13 years old, but with whom it also appears you have little in common. Or perhaps it’s a misfit Thanksgiving, where you’re gathering with friends, and friends of friends, and their friends’ friends’ friends. Or, maybe your family is like mine, welcoming anyone with no other plans to join you at the Thanksgiving table.
Whatever the case, there will likely be a situation or two tomorrow during which you’re faced with having to make small talk or dodge heated topics. It is an election year, after all, and a contentious one at that. If your stomach’s in knots wondering what in the world you’ll have to talk about over the Turkey Day feast, we have your back.
Here are some ice breakers and conversation starters that are sure to get the talk-time going. At least until the alcohol kicks in.
CONVERSATION STARTER: “What’s something funny that happened ______________ (at work last week, during your last vacation, when you were growing up)?”
I once read that regularly asking your kids to recount something funny that happened at school would teach them to start looking for the humor in each day. We tried it at our house, and it really does work. And if all goes well, and if laughter really is contagious (which it is!), everyone should be giggling in no time. Even that stodgy old Aunt Maude.
Potential springboard topics include: childhood stories, work/office dynamics, Louis C.K. skits
CONVERSATION STARTER: “So how about that Mick Jagger? I hear he’s 73!”
Yes, the septuagenarian rocker and his crew are getting ready to release a new studio album (the first in more than 10 years), Blue & Lonesome, on December 2. (Fingers crossed that it will be followed up with some tour dates in 2017.) And you don’t have to be a Stones fan to be in awe of their staying power and Mick’s moves.
Potential springboard topics include: classic rock, live shows, Keith Richards, senior discount days
CONVERSATION STARTER: “What’s your worst first date story?”
This Thanksgiving I’m thankful I don’t have any more first dates in my foreseeable future. And that I will never have to endure a first date like the one I had where the guy suddenly had gastrointestinal issues in the middle of our date. Yes, everyone has a worst date story, and commiseration is a strong bonding agent.
Potential springboard topics include: weddings, divorces, restaurants and bars that have closed since your dating era
CONVERSATION STARTER: “Anyone seen any funny movies lately?”
This one works no matter who’s around the table. Kids may have contributions to share (if you can hear them all the way from the kids’ table), and Aunt Maude may too, though her beloved Titanic doesn’t necessarily fall into comedy, but whatever. Point is, this one is a wide net you can cast when the awkward silence approaches.
Potential springboard topics include: upcoming holiday blockbusters, past holiday blockbusters, Cousin Eddie one-liners
CONVERSATION STARTER: “How about that winner of the ‘Ugliest Dog in the World‘ award?”
Use this annual event as a segue into some light-hearted conversation. Yes, you may have some die-hard underdog fans/animal rights advocates/people who own unattractive dogs at the table, but it can still work. Hang with me. Here’s how to broach the topic: “Y’all! Did you see the winner of this year’s ‘Ugliest Dog in the World’ contest? Bless it! Poor thing.” This approach shows that you’re not necessarily poking fun at the sorry soul who took top prize, but it does open the door for those who may be more bold and willing to do so. At which point, feel free to jump on the bandwagon. But do so at your own discretion. (FILE UNDER: Know your audience.)
Potential springboard topics include: past Darwin award winners, ugly dog breeds, memory sharing of favorite childhood pets
CONVERSATION STARTER: “Whatever happened to ________________?”
This one is the coup de gras for a conversation lull … there are SO many directions to take it! Here are just a few. Whatever happened to:
- The Balloon Boy
- The girl from “Small Wonder“
- The Macarena guys (aka Los Del Rio)
- Sally Struthers
- Lorena Bobbitt
- The Cranberries
- The runaway bride (aka Jennifer Carol Wilbanks)
See? Whether you want to head toward famous hoaxes, pop culture, sports history or whatever — there will never be a shortage of discussion when you fill in that blank.
Potential springboard topics include: too many to list
If all else fails and you land a seat at the Thanksgiving table with the toughest crowd ever, pose this thought-provoking question, which may or may not be rhetorical:
“What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?”
Hopefully this question conjures fond memories and thoughtful reflection as guests either share or quietly recall a beautiful moment for which they are thankful. And maybe, too, it will ignite a spark in all to pay it forward. Kindness and compassion matter, perhaps now more than ever.
Wherever — and with whomever — you spend Thanksgiving, good luck, Godspeed, and may your glasses never empty of fine wine, delicious food, great friends and lively conversation.
Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at StyleBlueprint!