Do you dread Thanksgiving with your family?  Is it because of your mother-in-law’s condescending questioning?  Or your dad’s inability to engage in a decent conversation?  Does your sister pretend the dried-out turkey is the best one yet?  Are you the only one who cares about football?

You might think there are only two options:  avoid the annoying relative or confront the annoying relative.  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.
  • If you’re asked your opinion ( well, it might happen in a perfect world), resist the urge to spill your guts.  Instead, put on your biggest FAKE smile 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 (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) “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 Game 7 of the 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 distance yourself immediately.

Thanksgiving is not the best day to start an argument, finish an argument, prove you’re right, or prove someone else wrong. It is, however, a time to be grateful.  Especially for second helpings.