Skip These Controversial Thanksgiving Topics for a Better Turkey Day

Save your Turkey Day sanity and change the subject like a pro. Armed with these tips, you'll avoid the drama and have the best Thanksgiving conversations ever.

Published October 14, 2023
Happy extended family toasting during Thanksgiving lunch at home

If you've ever been seated next to your boyfriend's toxic aunt or your sister's fiance with strong political opinions that totally clash with yours, you know what we mean when we say Turkey Day drama is real. Fortunately, there are a few ways to steer the conversation to safer ground when controversial Thanksgiving topics come up at the holiday dinner table.

We've got you covered so you can focus on gratitude instead of trying to escape by crawling under the table.

6 Controversial Thanksgiving Topics to Avoid for Less Drama

Before you can change the subject, you need to be able to see the social awkwardness coming. These topics don't always result in conflict and hurt feelings, but if you add a little holiday stress, some alcohol, and a few personality quirks, you've got the recipe for Thanksgiving drama. Keep an eye out for conversations that turn toward any of these hot-button issues.

Family Conflicts

It may seem obvious, but talking about drama begets (you guessed it) more drama. It doesn't matter whether the people involved are there. Everyone has an opinion.

Religious Views

Whether you're an atheist or an evangelical, the Thanksgiving table is not the place for talking about religion. Even discussions that seem simple might not be, since small differences in religious views can actually feel kind of gigantic.

Quick Tip

In some cases, you might know that everyone at the table feels the same way you do about religion. If that's the case, the topic might be totally drama-free for you.

The Awesomeness of Your Kids

We get it. Our kids are incredible, and we're proud of them. The thing is, bragging about the kids can actually lead to a feeling of competition. If your sister is worried about her kid having trouble in school and your kid just made the honor roll, it's not going to make her feel great.

That New Diet

First off, talking about diets on the day that's mostly about stuffing your face (er, we mean, gratitude) is just kind of a bad plan. But it's also a source of drama because it can make people feel insecure or inadequate. We've all got stuff we're working on in terms of our health, but it's better to talk about that one-on-one.

Other People's Life Choices

Your sister is nearing 40, but she hasn't had kids. Your uncle just got divorced and might be remarrying someone way younger. Your son has been dating his boyfriend for three years, but there's no sign of a trip down the aisle. It's tempting to talk about these things when the whole family is gathered together, but it's actually kind of the worst time to do that. If you start to see the Thanksgiving conversation headed that way, switch it up ASAP.

Politics and Social Issues

We totally get it. The world seems insane lately — to anyone of any political stripe. From gun control to gender equity, there's a lot to talk about, but the Turkey Day dinner table is not the place. These are Thanksgiving debate topics, not conversation starters. You won't change anyone's mind about anything in this setting, and drama is basically a given.

How to Steer Away From Thanksgiving Drama

Thanksgiving family

Now that you know what not to talk about when it comes to controversial Thanksgiving topics, you'll need some tips on what to do. When you see drama coming, it's time to steer for safer waters. There are a few ways you can do this.

Compliment the Person Speaking and Ask a Question

There's something good about everyone, and pointing that out is a good way to calm things down and change the subject. Start with a compliment and then ask a question that's related. For example, if your great aunt is criticizing the way your brother parents, compliment her wisdom and ask her about how she thinks people should word their thank you notes. If your drunk uncle is going off about Congress, tell him you love the mashed potatoes he made and ask for the recipe.

Get Yourself an Ally Before Dinner

If you suspect there may be Thanksgiving drama this year, pick a family member to tag team with at the table. You and your sister can make a plan ahead of time to work together to keep the conversation away from your mom's choice of a boyfriend or your uncle's views on the Middle East. You can even have a secret cue to ask for help. Together, two people can take the conversation in a totally new direction.

Use Word Association to Change the Subject

Word association is one of the easiest ways to change the topic of conversation at the dinner table. Basically, you just listen to what someone is saying, pick one of the words they used, and turn that into a new conversation.

For example, say your grandma is talking about how your sister should handle her baby getting up in the night. If she mentions the word "sleep," you could say something like, "Oh, I've been meaning to ask you about sleep, Grandma. Have you ever had any trouble with insomnia?"

Introduce a Safer Thanksgiving Discussion Topic

You can also bring up Thanksgiving conversation topics that are interesting but not confrontational at all. This is a great way to reduce drama, but you need a really good topic. These are a few everyone enjoys:

  • Best Thanksgiving foods
  • How many streaming services there are and which are the best
  • New cooking gadgets people have tried
  • Funniest TikTok videos
  • Best pets you've had as a family
  • What things people have crossed off their fall bucket lists this year
Quick Tip

You can also keep the conversation on the safe side by having some Thanksgiving trivia on hand to ask people during the holiday get-together. Having a few Turkey Day jokes never hurts, either. 

Pass the Mashed Potatoes But Hold the Drama

Thanksgiving drama isn't like the turkey or stuffing; it doesn't have to be a part of your meal this year. Take control of the conversation and skip the controversy for a way more satisfying and relaxing Turkey Day.

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Skip These Controversial Thanksgiving Topics for a Better Turkey Day