family serving Thanksgiving dinner


How To Keep the Peace at Thanksgiving Dinner

November 16, 2018 By

It was the kind of Thanksgiving you dream about.

Everyone was getting along. The in-laws were laughing together.

For a beautiful moment, it was perfect…

But then Uncle Steve pointed out that my son wasn’t eating the turkey…

My son is a vegan.

Steve ramped up his attack. And immediately, it turned into a heated argument.

I tried to defend my son’s diet calmly. But I ended up getting sucked into the argument too!

Needless to say, the beautiful moment was over.

Do you have an “Uncle Steve” in your family?

A relative who’s always looking for an argument… or who puts you on edge?

Well, you’re not alone.

Psychologist Leonard Felder – author of When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People – conducted a survey.

And he found 75% of respondents had at least one family member who gets on their nerves.

The fact is, even the most loving families have tension when everyone’s in the same room.

Sibling rivalries resurface. Old patterns repeat – which triggers unresolved emotions.

But not this year.

Because, today, I explain 3 proven strategies you can use to keep the peace this Thanksgiving.

So, if you want a few trusted tricks up your sleeve when challenges arise… read on.

Peacekeeping Strategy #1: Steer the conversation toward what UNITES you


family at Thanksgiving table

When Uncle Steve wants to argue, it can be tempting to meet his challenge head-on.

But this is not the time. It’s Thanksgiving, after all.

Luckily, there’s a better option:

Instead of winning the battle… end the battle.


Well, it’s easy. When “Steve” brings up politics or some other hot-button issue – simply redirect the conversation to something more positive.

Like your daughter’s success at work. Or your Dad’s favorite hobby – you know, the one he loves to talk about.

Mediator Julian Portilla – a conflict resolution instructor at Champlain College – advises switching to a topic your family has in common.

Like work, kids, or sports.

Changing the subject this way may sound intimidating.

But trust me, your relatives will feel relieved – and they’ll want to chime in.

This trick can make even your most difficult relative retreat.

Because even Uncle Steve doesn’t want to be the downer who ruins the good cheer.

Once he sees you’re above his petty fight, he’ll probably feel silly for trying to start it in the first place.

Peacekeeping Strategy #2: Find an “Emergency Buddy”


overcoming obstacles together at Thanksgiving

When you’re thrust into a difficult social situation, why should you have to navigate the stormy waters alone?

The answer is, you don’t. Here’s what you can do instead:

Before the big day, choose a family member your other relatives will listen to. (I choose my husband!)

And make an agreement to support each other when sticky situations arise.

That way – if trouble is brewing – you can count on your “buddy” to swoop in and help resolve the situation more smoothly.

Peacekeeping Strategy #3: Hope for the best, but don’t expect it


conflict resolution is important during the holidays

Ideally, everyone would get along in perfect harmony. But if we made that our goal, we’d often be disappointed.

In the end, we can’t control what other people do. We can can only do our best.

But there is one thing you can control… and it’s even more important.

I’m talking about your own expectations.

Setting realistic expectations and goals helps you end the night content and satisfied.

Dr. Leonard Felder suggests setting small, attainable goals to make the most of the evening.

For example, you might choose a goal like: having a few minutes of genuine connection with your most difficult relative.

With a clear, easy goal like that, you’ll set yourself up to succeed… and have some meaningful conversations, too.

Another benefit of having a realistic goal in mind is you can actively work to accomplish it.

For example, you might set a goal to have everyone feel warmly toward each other for at least 3 minutes.

Then, you can accomplish it by asking everyone to share one thing they love about the person sitting on their right. (I do this every year – and the warm feelings it creates are always amazing)

I made you a little “Cheat Sheet” for the big day. You can download it, print it out, whatever you want. It’s for you:

Thanksgiving cheat sheet

I hope these tricks help you navigate the challenges of Thanksgiving Dinner – so you can keep the good times going – and make the most of this precious time with your loved ones.

I’d love to hear what you think of them… or any tips you’d like to add. If you have a second, reply below and I’ll check later to see what you said.


P.S. What are you doing for Thanksgiving? Do you have any concerns about it?

Will you be using any of these peacekeeping tricks?

Tell me below.

And make sure to share this with your friends who have difficult relatives. (I’ve already shared it with a few of mine)


Share with your friends!

family peace positive thinking Thanksgiving