Thanksgiving is a time for the three “F”s: Food, football and family.
It’s that third “F” that too often results in shouting another F-word around the dinner table.
Yes, blood relations don’t necessarily mean good relations. Difficult personalities and hard feelings can be as plentiful as room-temperature gravy and stuffing.
Successfully navigating that sticky dynamic begins with having a plan, said Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist.
“The goal is to be really intentional when you go in. Because if you’re not prepared for what you might expect to happen, then that’s when we can say and do things that we might regret later on,” Ludwig told WTOP’s Shawn Anderson and Hillary Howard.
“Maybe you spend most of your day talking to people that you enjoy the most,” she said. “For those people that are a little bit more difficult, use a sense of humor. Be pleasant.”
And it goes without saying: Keeping the peace requires limiting the alcohol.
In regard to the topic of politics, keep in mind that “you’re not going to change anyone’s opinion,” she said. If you proceed anyway, do so with an open mind.
“You can listen to what people have to say without entering into the conversation,” Ludwig said. “If you find yourself feeling attacked, you can certainly say: ‘Hey I feel attacked. Maybe we can segue into a different topic.’ Or find another person to talk to where the conversation is a bit safer.”
What happens if you are the one who ended up saying something offensive? Don’t be afraid to apologize. And practice self-care: “If you need to take a walk around the block or get away … don’t [be] afraid to do that,” Ludwig said.
Finally, “don’t expect people to be who they’re not,” she said. “… Know who you’re dealing with and have a plan of action in mind in terms of how you want to interact with these people.”