How to Talk to Boring Relatives at Dinner

The experts of quality chat weigh in

By Lessley Anderson

She says: “Oh my, aren’t Suzy’s boys getting big?” You say: nothing, as you are consumed by crushing existential malaise. For many people, dinner with the extended family can be one of the most difficult parts of the holidays. After all, if you’re throwing a party any other time of year, you can choose your guests based on how fun they are to talk to. But you can’t choose your family members.

There are ways, however, of turning the most inane comments (“My trainer had me do 10 reps of lunges today at the gym!”), vague stories (“I went to Madrid, and it was great!”), or tedious topics (“You’ll never believe what I’m going through with my remodel!”) into electrifying repartee. To find out how, CHOW talked to three experts in extemporaneous dialogue: journalist Deborah Solomon, whose scintillating Q&As appear in each Sunday’s New York Times Magazine; Gayl Murphy, a Hollywood media trainer and author of Interview Tactics: How to Survive the Media Without Getting Clobbered!; and Julie Brister, an LA-based actress who’s taught improvisational comedy classes for 10 years. Here are some of their secrets.

More Tips on How to Ace Thanksgiving

See more articles