Five Thanksgiving icebreakers that don't suck

Skip the Small Talk Thanksgiving

Ah, the holidays: A time when we hope our lives will look like those wholesome cartoon specials we watched as children, but also a time when anxieties about getting stuck in conversation with people who hold different political and moral ideologies might keep you from doing that happy dance from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

This Thanksgiving, we encourage you to take some time to connect with others in ways that feel authentic without feeling emotionally exhausting. To help the conversation flow, we offer you some ice-breakers that will get others to share about themselves while subtly nudging everyone’s mood in a positive direction. So if you do end up having the “here’s why racism is bad” conversation with Uncle Joe, you’ll have a buffer of positive experience--and perhaps some common ground--that’ll make it easier for you to communicate with one another.

  1. What’s new and exciting in your life?
    This works because you get to hear someone’s life updates, but the tone keeps it positive so you don’t get an hour-long diatribe about every way the DMV has disappointed them in the last week. And if you are up for hearing content that might not be all positive, you can ask any of our “how are you” alternatives.
  2. What are you looking forward to when you get back from vacation?
    It’s usually gauche to remind someone that their vacation will one day end, but the positive spin can help people remember that they will probably still be capable of experiencing joy even after T-day is over.

  3. What are some things you’re feeling grateful for today?
    It might be obvious, but Thanksgiving is one of the few days out of the year when this question is much easier to ask. Take advantage of it-- research suggests that identifying a few things for which you feel grateful can actually make you happier.

  4. What are you watching/ reading/ listening to these days?
    Ask any of the above and watch people light up as they talk about their favorite TV show/ book/ podcast/ etc. If they end up playing the “let me convince you to watch this show by telling you about it in mundane detail” game and you’re not interested, feel free to shift conversation to what you are watching/ reading/ listening to, and see where your interests intersect.

  5. I’m trying to settle something, and I was wondering your opinion-- is a hamburger a sandwich?
    Ask this or a similar question in a group for maximum effect. Silly debates that everyone can weigh in on and that don’t have a “right” or “wrong” answer can get people engaged and feeling connected more quickly than you might think.

Hope you get the chance to savor a connecting, meaningful, and peaceful Thanksgiving!