Politics predicted to headline dinnertime conversations this Thanksgiving

(Johnny/Flickr Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Football, food, and family – the three big things people are looking forward to for Thursday.

“We’re going to watch the Packers game and hang out,” said Sam Drake, from Ithaca who is spending the holiday with his immediate family.

“I’m thankful my parents are still with us,” said Susan Martin, who is going to two different Thanksgiving dinners.

“First and foremost, it’s about community,” said Teresa Miller, the Chief Diversity Officer at the University at Buffalo.  “It’s important to realize we’re not going to see things the same way.”

Those opposing views are expected to come out in homes across the country as experts are predicting politics will headline dinnertime conversations during Thanksgiving.

“An important lesson we learned this election is that there’s a large group of people who feel unheard,” said Miller.

Dropping lines about Trump and Clinton in between turkey and cranberries isn’t something many people are interested in doing.

“We want to have a nice Thanksgiving and have a lot of fun and enjoy each other’s company so definitely stay away from politics,” said Martin.

“I think we’re going to try to avoid it for the most part and have a nice relaxed Thanksgiving,” said Drake.

Recent reports show 27% of Americans are fearing discussing the election during dinner.

“I think people are nervous about what the every day people they interact with are really thinking and feeling inside,” said Miller.

Miller is encouraging these conversations, though. She gives some tips about how to handle them.

Do                                                                              Don’t
 Treat everyone with respect                                  Roll your eyes or cross your arms
Be present                                                               Raise your voice
Look to understand perspective                          Look to be right

“It’s important to actually have a conversation and not have a debate,” said Miller.

Miller says being in-tune with social cues is imperative to know whether or not to keep the conversation going. She says once it starts to feel forced or tense, switch the subject. Some suggestions: turn to the history of Thanksgiving; discuss commonalities; talk about the meal.

The University at Buffalo hosts Dif-Con (short for difficult conversations) each semester. Miller, who is the Vice Provost for inclusion, and other faculty members address the tough talks people should be having.  Past topics have included police-involved shootings and the political conventions. She feels it’s imperative people share their own thoughts and hear out others as she believes that’s what shapes the world.

“It’s important to lean into those conversations around what people are thinking and feeling,” said Miller. “If people aren’t heard then that suppressed voice comes out in less constructive ways.”


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