Dasee Berkowitz

Thanksgiving: It’s about more than the stuffing recipe

Nervous about what some relatives might say at the table? Don’t sidestep disagreement – lean into it for a more meaningful discussion
Thanksgiving dinner. (iStock)
Thanksgiving dinner. (iStock)

Thanksgiving is upon us. As many of us are sitting down for the holiday meal, some of us may be concerned that the festive atmosphere will turn feisty.

The Israel-Hamas war has impacted all of us. It has ignited passions, led us to think in polarities, and even made us fearful to initiate a conversation at all. We are concerned it may jeopardize our closest family relationships.

Since when did simply talking feel so dangerous?

The easy answer is to steer clear of topical minefields. “Let’s focus on the nicer things instead,” we may say to ourselves: football games, Macy Thanksgiving Day parade, and the secret that makes the stuffing so moist.

But what are we missing when we sidestep what matters most to us?

  • We are foreclosing on a part of our identities.
  • We are keeping the stories that shape our lives to ourselves.
  • We are avoiding the emotional risk that leads to deeper mutual understanding and perspective-taking.

So let us be brave this Thanksgiving.

Let us initiate conversations about what matters most to us, and hold space for others to share the same.

It may be about the Israel-Gaza war. It may be about politics or other divisive topics.

How can we initiate conversations about what matters and keep faith that the perspective we offer will be received with the love and care with which it is spoken? How can we turn the personal danger we feel at the mere thought of initiating a conversation about a charged topic into our personal readiness to share stories that soften a debate’s harsh edges?

Some ways to start these conversations include:

  • What matters most to me about (x, y, z)…What matters most to you?
  • When I think about it, my perspective on (x, y, z) was shaped by the following experiences [share a few of those experiences]…What has shaped your perspective?
  • What gives me hope in this moment is (x, y, z)…What gives you hope?
  • What I am grateful to you for as we speak about this is (x, y, z)…What are you grateful for?

These conversation prompts can happen 1:1, or around the holiday table.

While it takes tenacity to stay present during the inevitable ups and downs that any meaningful dialogue demands, know that it will be well worth it.

I am struck that the Chinese characters that form the word “Crisis” are comprised of two words: “danger” and “opportunity.” This Thanksgiving, turn the danger that keeps us from initiating a hard conversation into an opportunity for a deeper connection.

About the Author
Dasee Berkowitz is an executive facilitator, coach and educator who helps professionals create the work cultures they want, through better interpersonal communication. She is also author of, "Becoming a Soulful Parent: A path to the wisdom within." She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and three children.
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