Thanksgiving dinner
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Anxious about forced family time? These clever, and non-political, topics of conversations will keep the mood light and awkward silence to a minimum. 

Whether you only see one side of your family on Thanksgiving or are tagging along to your better half’s Turkey Day, the holidays are a prime time for awkward conversation. Etiquette says that talking about politics, religion, and money are no-nos, so what exactly are you supposed to chat about with your dinner mates? Fortunately, there are tons of small talk topics out there that you can delve into without offending anyone. Who knows, you might learn something new about your family that will give you plenty to discuss going forward!

1. Travel

No, we’re not talking about how long you sat in traffic to get to your childhood home or how stressful the flight was. Ask your little cousin about what sights she plans to see when she studies abroad this upcoming spring semester, or fill her in on all the amazing food you got to sample on your last trip to New Orleans. Discussing what places had an impact on you is sure to get the conversation flowing.

2. The Kardashians

Okay, so it’s not exactly the most intellectually stimulating conversation, but almost everyone you know has an opinion on Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe. Ask your aunt if she’s heard the latest tabloid gossip or pull up a funny clip of the show on your phone to laugh over. Does your conversation partner not know who the heck Kris Jenner is? Then chat about whatever recent celeb news is lighting up the Twitter-verse that week. Pop culture is the ultimate uniter.

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3. How They Met

You may not need to be filled in on who fits in where on your family tree, but you may not know the stories behind how they got there. If you’ve never heard it before, inquire about how your great aunt met her husband. Maybe she had a killer pick-up line, or your uncle was in a band that was the talk of the town at the time. Even better if they bust out some photos from the good ol’ days.

4. First/Most Embarrassing Jobs

Your oldest family friend might be a respected lawyer now, but he may have worked as a clown for children’s parties when he was paying his way through law school. By chatting about first jobs, you may end up bonding over war stories from working retail on Black Friday, or get some insight into the person’s unlikely path to their current job.

5. Hometown Favorites

If you’re joining a friend for the holiday in a city you’ve never been to before, use pre-dinner chatting as an information-gathering sesh for the rest of your weekend. Find out from your dinner guests which are the must-see sights in town, what coffee shops you need to try, or what souvenirs you absolutely have to bring back with you. Your hosts will likely be more than happy to share their local faves!

Related Reading: Hometown Heroes: The Best Regional Sandwich Chains That Should Go National

6. Childhood Memories

When you’re joining your significant other for Thanksgiving for the first time, it’s a great opportunity to find out more about your honey. Ask whoever you’re chatting with to recount their favorite or funniest childhood memory of your better half. Bonus points if you get a peek at some funny middle school photos that you can use for your next #TBT.

7. Recipe History

If you find yourself working in the kitchen, strike up a conversation with the person next to you about the backstory of their dish. Maybe they learned it from their paternal grandmother before she passed away, or discovered it in a long lost cookbook that you’ll want to crack open yourself. Either way, you’ll get some insight into how that day’s meal came together.

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8. Football

Nothing goes together better than Thanksgiving and football, which makes it a great conversation starter at the dinner table. No sweat if you don’t know a thing about the game; get your most sports-obsessed seatmate to coach you on what you need to know.

Related Reading: 10 Tips for Tailgating in Cold Weather

9. Why You’re Grateful

The whole point of the holiday is giving thanks, so why not find out what the person you’re talking to is most grateful for? It will give them a chance to gush about their new job, their new baby, or their new zip code. Be ready to chat about what has you feeling appreciative, too.

10. Get Some Advice

If your cousin’s girlfriend is a tech genius, you can pick her brain about what computer you should buy next. Thinking of going on some weekend trips this winter? Ask your winter sport-loving uncle about his favorite ski slopes. Nothing gets someone talking quite like a topic they’re an expert on. One caveat: Avoid asking for any medical advice in between courses!

11. Compliments

If you find yourself trapped in a corner with the tough cookie of the family, there’s no better way to soften the atmosphere than with a compliment. Tell your third cousin you love her sweater and you need to know where she got it, or give her props for her amazing pumpkin pie and see if she’ll spill her secret ingredient.

12. Netflix and Chill

Alright, you may not exactly want to use that exact phrasing with your dad, but if you’re absolutely obsessed with “Stranger Things” and he’s not a convert, you may want to explain why he has to check it out. After you’re done, find out what your old man has in rotation in his DVR that he thinks you should start watching.

Related Reading: Best Cooking Shows On Netflix for the Foodie in You

13. Life Updates

If it’s a family member that you know well, but haven’t seen in awhile, inquire about what they’ve been up to since you’ve last seen them. Regardless of how long it’s been, it shows you care to touch base about what’s been going on in the other person’s life. (And just think, you’ll be ahead of the ball when you get the Christmas newsletter in the next few weeks.)

14. The Setting

Whether you’re scraping for something to chat about or you’re on hour two of small talk, you can always default to the common topic of where you actually are. Find out what your conversation partner thinks of the town’s latest beautification project or discuss the recent decor updates your hosts have made to their home.

15. The Weather

This one is a go-to for a reason: It’s universal. No matter if you’re having unseasonably warm weather that day or crazy winds made your holiday wreath end up on your neighbor’s’ lawn, pretty much everyone can chat a few minutes about what it looks like outside. Don’t feel like you have much more to say after a minute or so? It’s the perfect time to excuse yourself to get a refill!

For more Thanksgiving tips, tricks, hacks, and recipes, check out our Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide and our Ultimate Guide to Friendsgiving.​

Related Video: Expert Etiquette Tips to Get You Through Thanksgiving

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Kelsey Butler is a reporter and editor based in New Jersey. She has written for a number of health and lifestyle publications, including Women's Health, Brides, and NBC News Better. Hot sauce, black coffee, and bacon make up 50% of her diet.
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