How to Have Meaningful Thanksgiving Conversations

Have fun, meaningful conversations with your family and friends using these conversation starters.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to get to know loved ones on a deeper level. Before anyone has the chance to address the elephant (or donkey) in the room this year, use these tips to avoid topics of debate and have discussions of a lifetime. Forget what you hate about Thanksgiving conversations and focus on those you love. Even if you aren’t able to gather around the dinner table, you can still talk meaningfully with older friends and relatives via a virtual feast or an old-fashioned phone call.

Ask open-ended questions ...

You’ve already heard the story about how Aunt Lucille was named after her great grandmother because they were both born on July 10 or know that your next-door neighbor — a father figure in your life  — served in the Korean war. But beyond the basics, what do you really know about the people and events that shaped the lives of your loved ones? There’s always more to learn. Use these fun conversation starters that require more than a yes/no answer to get them talking about themselves and better understand who they are.

The Past

  • Describe yourself as a child.

  • What were the must-have toys, accessories or other items when you were growing up? Did you have them?

  • Who were the most influential people in your life? 

  • If you could relive any decade of your life, which would it be and why?

  • Tell me about the craziest thing that you and your childhood friends/college roommates/military buddies ever did?

  • What do you wish you would have saved from the past?

  • Tell me about the weirdest compliment you’ve ever received.

The Present

  • What are your hidden talents?

  • Tell us about your guilty pleasures.

  • Describe yourself in five words.

  • What’s the best part of aging?

The Future

  • What family or Thanksgiving traditions do you want your children and grandchildren to carry on?

  • How do you want people to remember you?

  • Name some goals you have for the next year.

… but don’t make it an interview.

The best conversations are fun, informal dialogues. Listen carefully to what others are saying and show your interest both verbally and non-verbally. Feel free to share your own stories when appropriate. If you’re asking about hidden talents, for instance, show off a few of your own double-jointed thumb tricks and take photos or videos of others having a good laugh as they unsuccessfully try the same tricks. Or, spend some time watching clips or ranking of the best and worst episodes of a television series (Nana watched 90210?!) they confessed to watching as a guilty pleasure. These interactions make the exchange more meaningful and memorable. 

Avoid the topics you hate to debate using these conversation starters and other tips from

Express your gratitude.

There’s no better time than Thanksgiving to tell your grandmother how much joy it brought you when she stocked up on gummy bears before you came to watch basketball games with her. Or your dad for teaching you everything there is to know about woodworking. Expressing gratitude keeps the tone positive and often leads to “remember when” conversations. You might even learn more about family members who have already passed on and can add that information to your family history and/or create a Life Story to honor them.

Have conversations this Thanksgiving to better understand your loved ones, and then preserve those memories using

Preserve the conversation.

After the pie plates have been licked clean, take a few minutes to write down or type out some of what you learned during your Thanksgiving family conversations. This gives you a greater understanding and appreciation of your loved one’s life and allows you to accurately remember the conversation when needed. Keep photos from the day in the same place you keep the notes and insights. Later, when your loved one passes, you can include the photos and reminiscence with their Life Story — an online tribute with unlimited words and an interactive timeline  — on  

This year, steer clear of small talk and awkward discussions. Use thoughtful conversation starters, express your gratitude and enjoy the company of your friends and family as you get to know them on a deeper level. You might even make this a new Thanksgiving tradition.

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