9 tips to spice up your Thanksgiving conversations

Diane Balogh profile image November 23, 2021 | 2 min read

Every year since 2002, the week of Thanksgiving has been celebrated as Better Conversations Week. Loren Ekroth, Ph.D., a thought leader in the field of conversation skills, started this tradition to promote enjoyable and meaningful conversations between family and friends.
Here are nine tips from Loren that can help you improve the quality of your in-person and phone conversations this Thanksgiving:

1. Use the person’s name.

As Dale Carnegie says, hearing your name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Find ways to use the other person’s name from time to time. “Our names are precious to us, and nearly everyone has a feel-good experience when being addressed by name.”

2. Get specific.

Avoid routine questions. If you ask someone how they are, you usually get a routine answer. Instead ask something you know they’re passionate about, such as traveling to all 50 states. Show them you remember what’s important to them.

3. Smile.

A friendly smile lightens any conversation, even when it’s over the phone. It can also add goodwill to help advance understanding, especially when talking about serious topics.

4. Respect time.

You never want to hold anyone hostage in a conversation. If you’re unsure if they have time to talk, ask before diving into a lengthy discussion. This is especially important on phone calls because you may have interrupted them in the middle of mashing potatoes.

5. Take turns.

Keep from monopolizing the conversation by talking in paragraphs, not chapters. When you’re finished, ask a follow-up question. For example, after recounting an embarrassing Thanksgiving blunder, ask if they can top it.

6. Adjust your voice controls.

Make sure your voice is pleasing to the ear. Find the right speed, volume, pitch and tone. They’ll vary depending on your audience and message.

7. Share valuable info.

Tell your librarian cousin about a novel you stayed up all night to finish. Or let your uncle know his bank is shredding documents for free next month. If you’re talking to someone you just met, give some advice that most can use, like the name of a great auto mechanic. Or how they can save money by switching their traditional home phone to an internet phone service provider like Ooma.

8. Pay attention.

The gift of your presence and full attention is a powerful way to strengthen a relationship. Resist the temptation to listen to side conversations. And ignore your cell phone unless you’ve got the timer set to pull out the yams before the marshmallows burn.

9. End on a graceful note.

As your conversation wraps up, don’t rush off. Take a few seconds to express how much you enjoyed the talk. Or, better yet, thank them for sharing something you didn’t know.
“These little things add a quality of civility and care to any conversation,” explains Loren. “Ultimately, they mean a lot because your attitudes tend to be reciprocated. When you pay attention and include these little things, others will often do these same things for you, and that makes for a satisfying talk.”

Note: Information for this post was reprinted with permission of Dr. Loren Ekroth, publisher of “Better Conversations” weekly newsletter. You can sign up for a free subscription at www.conversationmatters.com, where you can learn more about conversational skills.