How to have a productive conversation at Thanksgiving dinner

SPOKANE, Wash. — As family and friends prepare to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, knowing how to have productive conversations could help you at the dinner table. An argument about misinformation or a conspiracy theory at dinner is not how you want to spend the holiday.

“For most of these folks that we’re talking about what they believe is absolutely real to them. It is much a truth to them as it is the opposite for everyone else,” Senior Director of Professional & Community Learning John Silva News Literacy Project said.

The News Literacy Project says the best way to approach the holiday is to keep conversations that have the ability to get heated away from dinner. To prevent a heated argument from happening, you can take steps to make it a productive conversation.

“If somebody brings up something crazy. Just say, ‘That’s interesting maybe we can talk about that later. Can you pass the mashed potatoes?’,” Silva said.

Silva says it’s likely you won’t change someone’s mind with dessert. Be willing and ready to have empathy for one another’s beliefs, and approach the conversation in a way that avoids conflict as much as possible.

“Conversations like this take time. Especially, if you’re going to try and reach someone, and have meaningful conversations. What you’re really hoping to do when you’re at the Thanksgiving table, and you’re approaching a conversation like this. It’s the opening to a much longer conversation,” Silva said.

Thoroughly listening and asking questions are both effective tools to use.

“What you want to avoid doing is saying ‘Well you’re wrong, and this is why you’re wrong,’ and you pull up a piece of evidence. You want to approach this in a way that invites them to join them in looking into the information together, so you can say ‘I read something different about that. Can I share that with you?,'” Silva said.

Silva recommends you ask yourself if it’s really important to try and change someone’s mind, and if it is, know that it probably won’t be easy.

“People don’t get manipulated into false beliefs in one conversation, so it takes more than one conversation to bring them out of it,” Silva said.

Silva says it could be effective to bring a topic up at Thanksgiving then have a private conversation later.

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