While everyone is entitled to their views and political leanings, we should all be okay leaving these topics at the door at a holiday dinner. After all, the holidays are about connecting with loved ones, particularly those you don't see too often, rather than butting heads over polarizing topics or hot-button issues.
To help you get from the turkey through the pumpkin pie sans spats, we've prepared 30 conversation-starters that can help steer table talk in a safe direction—no matter whom you're seated next to at dinner.
If you're looking to steer away from sensitive topics with relatives, turn to travel. Whether you're asking your cousin what her favorite international destination is, or you want to know what your family has planned travel-wise for the coming year, topics around wanderlust will always get people talking.
- What are your vacation plans for the holidays?
- What destinations are on your bucket list for next year?
- Have you done any short weekend getaways recently?
- Do you prefer a summer or winter vacation?
- What’s the most amazing hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
- What’s the best travel experience you’ve ever had?
- What’s the most beautiful beach you’ve ever visited in the world?
Have you always wondered how your grandparents met? Maybe you'd like some relationship advice from your aunts and uncles who have successful marriages? Or perhaps you're looking to find out all about your sibling's new flame—relationships always seem to spark conversation.
Relationships can be a sensitive subject for some. Before asking your family members or friends about their happy relationships, try to do some digging on social media and make sure they're still in their relationships so that you don't upset anyone by asking about it.
- Ask the longest-married couple at the table to tell the story of their wedding day.
- Do you think that telling the truth is always right—even when someone gets hurt?
- Ask the parents at the table to describe what happened on the days their children were born.
- What’s the best surprise that you’ve ever received from a loved one?
We all tend to indulge over the holidays and end up feeling burned out by the end of the year—which makes the holidays the perfect time to ask your family and friends what they do to stay fit, healthy, and calm. Whether you're asking them about the latest wellness trend or the workout they swear by, chances are you'll have something to talk about for hours.
- Have you ever tried sage smudging?
- I’m really into [new fitness class]. Have you done it before?
- Have you ever tried eliminating alcohol from your diet for Feb Fast? Would you do it?
- What’s the craziest wellness trend you’ve tried? Did it work?
Who doesn't love to share their favorite restaurant or recipe? Talk to people about food, and you'll likely have them hooked for a while. Whether you're asking them for cheese recommendations or about the best dish they've tried recently, food is a topic that never fails to get people talking.
- What’s your favorite part of the holiday meal?
- What was your most memorable meal of the year?
- What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever been to?
- What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
- What’s your signature dish?
- What’s your favorite cookbook and why?
If you're feeling stuck in your career or want advice from your elders, the holidays are the perfect time to talk to family, friends, and colleagues about their professional paths. Ask them about a career milestone or a new business venture you're considering, or ask them about how they've overcome specific challenges in their professional paths. Chances are you'll both come out of the conversation wiser.
- If you could have any job in the world, what would you do?
- Ask older family members to describe their first jobs.
- Did someone at the table experience a career milestone this year, such as starting a new job, graduating, or receiving a promotion? Ask them to share how it’s going.
- What’s your proudest career moment to date?
Above all, the one thing that never fails to get people talking is a shared love of the latest TV show, movie, or book. If you're stuck in an awkward silence, ask your family or friends about the best shows they've recently binge-watched or the latest book they couldn't put down. You'll even have something to watch and read once the holiday break comes around.
- What show are you most excited about right now?
- Where were you when [insert topical event] happened?
- How did you celebrate last year?
- What holiday movie are you looking forward to seeing?
- What are you most thankful for?