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Ms. Magnolia

Letters have been edited for length and clarity.

Ways to Have

Better Conversation at Thanksgiving

It’s a longtime American tradition to argue over the holiday table. This Thanksgiving, many Americans will show up at their relatives’ homes armed with pumpkin pie and political talking points. But this year keep the conversation pleasant and thoughtful. Here are some skills that help us communicate comfortably with others.

The key to good conversation is really listening to others, not just thinking about what you are going to say next. Consider their point of view, what they care about, and what they know. Don’t interrupt, but ask relevant questions to further information sharing.

Remember that gracious manners are the social contract we all should abide by to stay civilized. Be considerate of other people – make eye contact when communicating, but don’t stare; avoid distractions (including your cell phone) when people are speaking with you; don’t monopolize their time.

Sometimes others need an opportunity to complain or simply let off steam. When someone trusts you enough to confide in you, keep their conversation confidential and don't tell anyone. You may be a sounding board, but remember that it isn’t your job to solve their problems. Listen much, say little, and don’t offer advice.

However, others are not always as trustworthy as you are. Control the information you share about yourself. Don’t share any information that you wouldn’t want to appear on Facebook or Twitter or tomorrow’s news.

Keep strong emotions under control. Don’t be baited into negativity. To keep the exchange productive, you might need to disguise your true feelings, switch topics, or take a bathroom break.

Communication is fundamental to our human experience. It’s the way we connect with others and deepen our relationships. Keep it polite and considerate.

If you have a question for Ms. Magnolia, please mail it to P.O. Box 669, Vidalia, GA 30475, or e-mail to

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