News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

[Audio] How to Manage 'Heated' Conversations with Relatives on Thanksgiving

circleps, 123rf Stock Photo

Thanksgiving is typically a time when family members come together around the table and enjoy a nice meal, but sometimes the conversations can get heated or become difficult. On Sounds Good, Tracy Ross and Dr. Michael Bordieri of Murray State University's Department of Psychology discuss some helpful tips for getting along better with relatives and being more effective in making interactions positive.

What is your objective?

Dr. Bordieri cites Dr. Marsha Linehan's research into dialectical behavior therapy and interpersonal effectiveness, the idea that before we get started in our interactions, to understand what our goals are. What is your objective in a situation where you need to communicate your feelings? Maybe it's wanting your employer to give you a raise or for people to believe what you believe.

When it comes to family, we need to balance the objective with other objectives like cultivating a relationship over a lifetime. Sometimes the objectives can be at odds with one another. A Thanksgiving conversation is different than buying a car. When you want a car you want the best deal, but when dealing with family you want to maintain a good long-term relationship. Sometimes it's more important to not "win" a situation but in how you engage in the conversation.

It all comes down to balance, Dr. Bordieri says.

He refers to what Dr. Linehan calls self respect, he says. Are we interacting in a way that represents our values and moral compass? What you want, how you want the relationship to grow and how you want to act according to your own values are three areas that can often get folks in trouble when they prioritize one over the others.

If you find yourself on a rant about a "forbidden topic" check in with yourself and ask, 'What am I working on right now? Is this really the most important thing? Is it the most important thing that someone at the table says "you're right" or is it better to look back at the quality time spent with family?'

The D.E.A.R. Man

When trying to assert yourself in the way that you want, think of the D.E.A.R. man.

  • Describe: Describe the situation from your perspective
  • Express: Express how you feel about it. We can't always expect others to read our mind. But don't focus on what they're doing or how they should feel.
  • Assert: What you would like to happen, not necessarily what others should do. Maybe what you would like is to let the conversation go for a while and talk about something else.
  • Reinforce: It's important that we want people to talk with us. If they agree with you then let the know you appreciate that. Or you could reinforce why giving you what you want could be helpful in that situation.
Tracy started working for WKMS in 1994 while attending Murray State University. After receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU he was hired as Operations/Web/Sports Director in 2000. Tracy hosted All Things Considered from 2004-2012 and has served as host/producer of several music shows including Cafe Jazz, and Jazz Horizons. In 2001, Tracy revived Beyond The Edge, a legacy alternative music program that had been on hiatus for several years. Tracy was named Program Director in 2011 and created the midday music and conversation program Sounds Good in 2012 which he hosts Monday-Thursday. Tracy lives in Murray with his wife, son and daughter.
Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
Related Content