How to Discuss Politics at the Thanksgiving Table

Tina Fey Eye Roll
Avoid the eye roll at all costs!

Ready to try a difficult conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table this year? No idea how to start? Here are some tips:

As the host of the podcast BE THE BRIDGE, I spend several hours a week reading, researching, writing and talking to people about how we can improve the relationship between the faith and LGBTQIA+ communities. One question I typically ask my guests is how can we have better conversations about faith and sexuality. The answer I get most often is surprising. Because it’s counterintuitive. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

If you want to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you about an issue, listen. And by that I’m not saying to listen just long enough to figure out what the person is saying and then start coming up with rebuttal points. And don’t just listen because it’s polite. And don’t listen just because you want the person to have the same respect for you when you speak. BUT REALLY LISTEN.

Try to answer these questions:
  1. Why does this person think this way? And the answer is not because they’re a Nazi or an idiot. These people at your Thanksgiving table are your friends and family. I’m sure they have some laudable value behind their thinking. Maybe the issue affects them personally in a way that you don’t know or don’t understand.
  2. Is there anything you can learn from their position? It’s too bad that in our echo chambers on Facebook, social media and our media outlet of choice, we are only given one side of an issue. There may be some value in what the person is saying. Think of it like an Easter Egg hunt for ideas at the Thanksgiving table. The real joy is finding something unexpected.
  3. How are this person’s experiences different from your own? Ask questions about their personal story that might illuminate the rationale behind their position on an issue.

If the person seems interested in your view, then and only then, ask the person if you can share your opinion. BUT ALWAYS START by affirming their position. Point out the strength or value in their argument. Try to find one thing in their position that you agree with.

Agree to Disagree but Don’t be Disagreeable

And then just share why you feel the way that you do. We’re too inundated with facts and logic to really change our minds these days. Maybe the best we can do is just to agree to disagree without being disagreeable.


When you’re listening, please resist the temptation to “respond” with the dreaded eye roll. Y’all. I know it’s tough. I’ve perrfected the eye roll. I could teach a class on the eye roll –  Shoot both eyes up while keeping your head perfectly still. Roll your eyes to the right or left and then slowly turn your head in that direction, as if the force of your eyes is so strong that your head can’t help but follow.  Once your head is all the way to the left or right, exhale in a huff and return head to center, but then look beyond the person, as if there’s someone standing just behind them with a knife and is about to stab the person. DON’T DO THIS THOUGH! I just want you to understand that I know what I’m talking about here. Really listen and give them the “I understand what you’re saying” head bob.  Do you know this one?  It’s sort of squinty eyes and slow head nodding. An occasional verbal cue can help.  My goto these days is “right. . . right.” You don’t have to be saying they’re correct, but you could just be saying, “Yes, that’s probably what someone right of Hitler would think.”  NO!  Don’t do that! Be sincere.

Listening, like math, is hard.