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‘Toss the football’ around the Thanksgiving dinner table: Conversation Do’s and Don’ts

As you gather around the table this Thanksgiving think about conversation as a football game. It's easy, as long as you follow a few simple rules...

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Ready or not, the holidays are upon us! They’re a time for family, friends, food, football—and perhaps frustration?

As much as you love your family and friends, dinner table conversation can be a frustrating experience: An aunt who starts talking and never stops. The brother-in-law who interrupts. The sister who makes every conversation about herself!

Be sure you’re not the one committing these conversation faux pas. As you gather around the table this Thanksgiving, think about conversation as a football game. The person who has the ball speaks. The next person waits to speak until the ball is thrown to them.

It’s easy, as long as you follow a few simple rules…


  1. DON’T be the interrupter.
    In essence you’re stealing a turn when you interrupt. As much as you would like to tell your story, wait your turn.
  2. DON’T overlap (talk at the same time as the speaker).
    This is often another way to gain control of the conversation and essentially steal a turn.
  3. DON’T monopolize the conversation.
    If you start talking and never stop you will lose the attention and interest of your listeners. This sets you up for overlap or interruption as others attempt to gain their turn.


  1. DO wait your turn.
    Life is full of situations where we need to wait our turn…on line, in traffic, playing a game, and, yes, in conversation. Listen for the speaker to stop or ask a question before you start to speak.
  2. DO get to the point.
    Tell your story and then stop. This allows others the opportunity to speak. When someone in our family starts to ramble on, my brother likes to say, “Nuts and bolts,” meaning, We don’t need to hear every detail. Get to the point!
  3. DO stick to the topic.
    This requires listening. A comment related to what the speaker was talking about shows you were paying attention. The speaker will appreciate your interest and your comments will add to the conversation.

This year, try tossing the verbal football around your Thanksgiving table. Make sure everyone gets a turn and no one holds the ball for too long. Everyone will be glad they were part of the conversational team that contributed to the success of the meal. Enjoy!

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