East Tennesseans share advice on avoiding Thanksgiving Day squabbles over politics

Local News

Maybe you’ve considered conversation topics during Thanksgiving dinner and politics may be off the menu. We talked with a Knoxville therapist about how to avoid disagreements at the dinner table.

Which pie to serve has already been discussed, but Gus Zacharias and his wife Monica Gawet have already decided they’ll be talking football during Thanksgiving.

“The frustration of being a Lions fan,” said Zacharias.

Their family is hosting long-time friends, Steve and Steph Trosch of Napa. The friends say politics will be set aside.

“It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it. It’s a day that should be fun, don’t let it end in a fight,” said Gawet.

“We are very respectful of our friends about their focus and what’s important to them and they respect what’s important to us,” said Stephanie Trosch.

Therapists say if politics comes up, one-on-one conversations are usually less antagonistic than in a group.

“If you find that someone’s bringing up political conversation with you, focus on listening to them, asking questions about why they feel the way they do, what led them to believe that, if you can do it civilly and kindly,” said Dr. Laurie Williams.

It’s suggested bringing things up you have in common or share to discuss during the Thanksgiving Day dinner.

“Keep in mind a lot of times people are siding with a political party almost like they are a team at this point,” added Dr. Williams.

If a conversation becomes heated, argumentative and no longer productive, Dr. Williams says take yourself out of the equation and even step away, “Anger alienates and only pulls us further apart. It’s not appropriate for the Thanksgiving table.”

Dr. Williams says the shorter a visit, the better it tends to go. To keep tempers in check, it’s best to avoid drinking too much. She adds if you’re the host and you hear a conversation turn harsh, critical or hurtful, it’s okay to change the subject.

“If they say something that has me kind of uncomfortable, I’ll ask them about it. I think approaching those conversations with a gentleness and generosity and really wanting to talk about where the person is coming from is the best way forward,” said Ilana Brownstien,who is visiting family in East Tennessee from Boston.

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