What should I talk about?
It’s Thanksgiving in the US, a holiday to celebrate harvest and appreciate and cherish what we have. Many cultures have a type of harvest festival. Our life is full of things that we should be thankful for. It is a time for families and extended families to get together and strengthen the bond.
Sharing meals has been a center of building relationships in human civilization starting from cavemen days. Even today, evolution psychologists say that sharing a meal together is the best way to build trust and relationship. The logic is that eating is so essential to our survival that anyone who can eat with us is likely to be someone who can help us survive. In past times food was so scarce that the tendency was only to share freely with people who mattered to us. In the modern age, we all know that even a business discussion goes over easier over a meal than in a meeting room.
While eating with people we trust strengthens the bond, eating with people we don’t feel comfortable with may make us feel vulnerable and agitated. That’s a reason why people can get so emotional over dinner table talk and raise their voices.
Let’s make this Thanksgiving special. As your family gathers around a table this year, carefully look who is happy to be there and who is not. Have intentional conversations to make those who feel vulnerable feel emotionally safe. Talk about something memorable you have done together, remind the person of his/her strengths that you appreciate, or share ideas of an activity that you can do together and enjoy. If you are really not sure what to say, just sit next to a person, put your hand on their shoulder and enjoy each other’s presence.
Rather than having a “what happened” conversation, have what you think and how you feel conversations. These are far more meaningful than what happened. How I feel conversations strengthen the bond, giving depth to the relationship.
Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your dinner conversation!