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Surviving Thanksgiving

How to improve your holiday

Today, in honor of the US observance of Thanksgiving next week, I am going to talk about how to improve the holidays by applying the latest social science theories to personal interactions. (These are the same theories that are behind my blog posts on marketing, just so you don’t think I am totally off topic.)  In this politically divisive environment, holidays have become a minefield.  And in the run up to the 2020 election, with the background of the impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives, this Thanksgiving promises to take it up a notch from the previous years.

So, what to do?  Thanksgiving is a week away, so there’s not much time. So, I am going to focus on a baby step. That’s all anyone can do in one week.

When you encounter someone who you know you are going to disagree with on politics, and your initial reaction is to just avoid talking to them at all (not surprising), instead try this. Tell them that you admire them for (pick one from the following list- obviously one that applies to that person.)

  • For their patriotism
  • For their devotion to our country
  • For their dedication to their church.
  • For their dedication to their family.
  • Or pick another cause that you know they care about deeply

Then let them talk about what you just said.  Listen to what they say.  Ask them non-directive probing questions (such as, tell me more about ….). While you are listening, pick out things that you like about what they are saying and name them aloud. Don’t bother with the things you dislike, ignore them.  And don’t try to make a point, or tie what they are saying to something you believe. Just listen and ask questions. 

That should change the conversation and maybe change your relationship. Maybe, you will take a step closer to this person.  Then maybe at the next holiday, you can take the next step.  (If you want to know the next step, subscribe to my blog, I will blog about this in mid-December.)

Just so you know, what you are doing with this person is exploring the moral foundation of what Drs. Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham call Loyalty (and I call Belonging and Community.) We (all humans) have a need for Belonging and Community but some of us place more importance on it than others.  Lower levels of Belonging and Community have been linked to higher suicide and addiction rates.  By exploring Belonging and Community with someone who might have a higher level of it than you do, you are actually working on increasing your own experience of it.  And that has been linked to greater happiness.


I really want to know how this works out for those of you who try it. I am in the process of writing a chapter for my new book which will include a chapter with steps like this one, to use in your personal life. Please email me and tell me your story of what worked and didn’t work so I can alter the chapter.


Also, if you want to be an advanced reader of the workbook I am developing with these steps, click here.  I promise not to spam you.

I’ll be taking off next week from my blog in honor of the US national holiday of Thanksgiving. Talk to you in December.



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Karen Tibbals @KarenTibbals

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