Some American thanksgivings might be particularly fraught this year.
If it’s a virtual occasion? When dealing with perceived slights, actual insults, and ill-gotten gains, between friends, frenemies, in-laws or relatives, resist telling that person exactly what you think of them or their political affiliation via text. Also, don’t email. Don’t send Facebook messages. Don’t Slack WORK, -1.16% for the love of God, please don’t tweet TWTR, +0.64% your views.
“ ‘Thanksgiving dinner will already have a turkey, it doesn’t need two headless chickens fighting over the soul of the nation.’ ”
Thanksgiving dinner typically allows you to dish out your views face to face. What you say cannot be produced as evidence against you. It cannot be forwarded to others as an example as what your father-in-law or sibling has had to put up with over the years, and it cannot be screen shot and beamed on a billboard on Times Square. But ill-chosen words over dinner cannot be taken back.
Employing perfect diplomacy is unlikely. Whatever your feelings on President Trump’s refusal to concede the election as more state certify the results or President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet choices avoid them. A conversation about how Columbus managed to “discover” a country that was already populated by indigenous peoples and the merits of mask mandates are recommended.
Still, there is some good news ahead of turkey day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.53% surpassed 30,000 for the first time on Tuesday on the back of the vaccine news, and progress in a transition of power from President Trump to President-elect Biden. The S&P 500 Index SPX, +1.61% and Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +1.31% also rose. So far, so good.
But let’s face it. With a couple of glasses of wine and some simmering resentments from Thanksgivings of yore, the “avoid this, avoid that” rule of thumb is likely to last as long as turkeys on Thanksgiving week or — indeed— chickens, who may be equally nervous about the reduced size of holiday gatherings due to COVID-19.
The word from the experts is to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving altogether. The advice to forgo Thanksgiving with relatives, and help prevent community transmission by deciding against getting on a plane or driving to a home where you will be indoors with others without masks, however, will not be followed by an estimated 50 million Americans this year. But what if you don’t?
Avoid falling out with relatives by following these 5 rules of engagement:
Before you have that first glass of wine, breathe. We have a better chance of controlling our adrenaline, heart rate and, ergo, our emotions if we do that. If you don’t meditate, it’s a good time to start. Ultimately, you will not be able to change other people’s political beliefs. That need to control what others do or think or say is a fool’s errand. Ultimately, it’s above all our pay grades.
1. If things get heated, remember the good things about the person. You can always find something. He loves his wife. She is a good mother. Or try putting yourself in their shoes, which is almost always a compassionate act. He had a poor childhood, and didn’t have the same opportunities. She had a privileged upbringing, which has shielded her from many of life’s trials and tribulations.
2. So what happens if/when the conversation rolls around to the election? “Why do you say that?” is better than “You liberals/conservatives are all the same. I knew I shouldn’t have come here today!” A question is better than a statement. Opting for the latter risks offending your host or guest. But avoid questions starting with “Do you not think that…?” Nobody likes to be told what to think.
3. Tell them how you feel, not what they are. Avoid: “You’re a no-good Democratic… Or: “You’re a GOP-loving…” If your sibling or in-law says you can’t take a joke or deflects by saying she meant X or Y, say it again: “It hurt my feelings.” If they do it again? Say, “Remember I asked you not to make value judgments about me over soup? Well, we’re now only on our turkey and it’s happened again.”
4. If your mother-in-law says, “I wanted Daisy to marry a Republican like her father. Or, “I wanted Jack to marry a Democrat like his first wife, Laurie. I miss Laurie.” Don’t react, or lie. Smiling politely (or sarcastically) at such an unflattering comment can feel like you’re taking the moral high ground, but seldom does it make us feel better, or help.Try, “Daisy has good taste.” Or, “Jack knows best.”
5. Thanksgiving dinner will already have a turkey, it doesn’t need two headless chickens fighting over the soul of the nation. If your diehard conservative mother or bleeding-heart liberal father want to exorcise their own demons by trying to awaken yours, don’t play along. Say, “Enough is enough,” take out the playing cards, and suggest a game of gin rummy.
And if that fails to keep the peace? Take a deep breath — and think of your inheritance.
Quentin Fottrell is the Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected]. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.
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