It’s almost Thanksgiving and back by popular demand, is my perspective on how to get through the holiday with some of your less-than-favorite people, the relatives.
You might think there are only two options: avoidance or confrontation. But in true peacemaker form, I’d like to propose another option: would you be willing to fake it?
My honest-to-a-fault friend, Kelly, thinks faking it is disingenuous. She says it’s the same as lying. Generally, I have to agree; but at the Thanksgiving table with your mentally-deteriorating Aunt Lillian, maybe faking it is the nice, peaceful thing to do. Think of it as stress management without the wine (and without the whine).
Want a few ideas about how to implement this strategy? Here you go:
- Try the FAKE agreement. When someone starts to self-righteously preach an opinion about which you disagree, listen politely for no more than one minute. Then interrupt and say: “You have a point.” (Remember, you’re not saying that it’s a good point, just a point. Which it is.) Your statement will likely be interpreted as an agreement, which means you’re instantly free to move away.
- Practice your FAKE smile. If you’re asked your opinion (well, it might happen in a perfect world), resist the urge to spill your guts. Instead,whip out that smile you’ve been rehearsing and say “Thank you SO much for asking, but I need to give this some more thought.” It’s like putting the conversational brakes on the entire topic.
- FAKE a survey. I mean, who doesn’t like to take a brief survey? Smile as you interrupt your annoying relative and say, “Before I forget, I’m taking a survey for work. What’s your favorite holiday movie?”
- Try my famous “FAKE Smile and Switch” strategy. It’s an oldie but a goodie, and it works well when you simply want to talk about something else. There are lots of other non-controversial yet current topics to introduce; i.e., “How about that World Series?” or “What’s your favorite holiday tradition?” Remember, the FAKE smile is mandatory. It’s your insurance policy that Uncle Phil will never realize that you don’t exactly love chatting with him.
- FAKE sudden interest in what’s going on a few feet away. Glance at the kids, or the host, or the person sitting alone and, without explanation (but always with a smile), excuse yourself. With FAKE urgency, say “I’ll be right back” and then immediately distance yourself.
Thanksgiving is not the best day to start an argument, finish an argument, prove you’re right, or prove someone else wrong. With all the violence in our world, and with all the divisiveness in our country, who wants more stress? Picking apart the universe isn’t helpful on Thanksgiving. Picking apart the word “Thanksgiving,” on the other hand, is a terrific idea. Let’s focus on giving thanks. This holiday is a time to be grateful. Especially for second helpings.