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6 Thanksgiving Table Discussions to Avoid, According to Experts

Here are a few taboo topics to avoid on turkey day. 

The holidays are quickly approaching, which can be bittersweet for some people – and we aren't talking about the cranberry sauce. "The holidays are a time for enjoying time with family, not fighting with them. And while this seems obvious, it's far from simple," Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., author of Fragile Power: Why Having It All Is Never Enough, tells Best Life. In fact, he reveals that this year more than any other in the past, he has been getting calls from clients old and new "who are stressed out about the holidays due to the potential for conflicts with family members over a legion of massive topics such as reproductive rights, religion, war and politics and as small as a new tattoo," he says. 

Avoid Talking Turkey…If It's Bad

A person placing a Thanksgiving turkey down on the table in front of their family


Dr. Hokemeyer recommends refraining from saying anything negative about the food. "A Thanksgiving dinner is meant to celebrate gratitude for abundance, not to be critical of the turkey," he points out. "If you think the green bean casserole is too salty this year, don't indulge in it. Don't comment about it either."

Refrain From Family Money Discussions

family thanksgiving dinner

Another topic that should be off limits? Family member's testamentary plans, says Dr. Hokemeyer. "You might be eager to know what's in mom and dad's will, but you don't need to discuss it between Thanksgiving courses. Death and money, while very interesting topics and meaningful to have in the proper context. A holiday dinner isn't that context," he explains. 

No Bragging Rights

Young smiling man smelling roasted turkey on a Thanksgiving day with his family.

You should also try to avoid bragging about anything, especially extravagant purchases, like your new designer bag. "This year more than ever we need to be respectful of other people in our family and our world who are struggling. Avoid turning Thanksgiving dinner into an Instagram account," he says. 

Body Parts Are Off Limits

child assembling thanksgiving arts and crafts while playing thanksgiving games

Bringing up a body part of anyone at the table is off limits. "Yes, your nephew's biceps may be bulging, but commenting on them in the front of the entire table will make him feel uncomfortable and you look creepy. This applies to Aunt Jane's lips as well," Dr. Hokemeyer says. 

Any Family Skeletons

Family Arguing

Avoid bringing any skeletons out of the closet, like that time your mom or dad hurt you or so-and-so cheating on their spouse. "There is enough sadness in the world right now to bring down Atlas. Processing that pain, while important, needs to occur at the right time and in the right place," Dr. Hokemeyer states.

No Political Debates

president donald trump pardoned a turkey at the annual ceremony
Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock

Donald Trump is often a popular Turkey day discussion, but just don't go there, says Dr. Hokemeyer. "The man as well as the myth, are exhausting and polarizing. Regardless of what you think of him as a politician, the hostility he invokes as well as the disruption and chaos that swirls around him is not the energy you want swirling amongst the mash potatoes and creamed green beans," he says. 

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Focus on Gratitude

young girl and grandma making pie
iStock / Choreograph

Thanksgiving is a day to be thankful, so in general, Dr. Hokemeyer suggests keeping the big picture in mind, "which is family harmony and gratitude." Avoid all topics "that will make anyone or everyone uncomfortable, hurt the feelings of the host or another guest, and most importantly add to the ethos of conflict, sadness and despair." 

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more