Thanksgiving. Truly, it's one of the best American holidays. But it can also be a time when people get involved in arguments and confrontations that they later regret.

You're with friends and family you might not see often, and sometimes an entire year's worth of issues flying out at once. Or else, somebody has a few too many drinks and decides that now would be a good time to bring up politics.

In times like these, emotionally intelligent people have a fantastic advantage. They know how to defuse tricky situations and make everyone happier.

So I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving. But just in case you do wind up facing an argument or a friend or relative who just doesn't want to let go, try these brilliant tricks that the most emotionally intelligent people know to use.

1.    The goal orientation

This is basically rule number one. If you start getting into these kinds of conversations, remember the goal. Is it to convince the other person that you're right?

Heck no. It's to have an enjoyable Thanksgiving and create positive memories. So, if you don't need to win an argument, don't. Instead, win the day by being the guest (or host) that everyone appreciates.

Tip: Repeat silently: "Remember why I'm here. Remember why I'm here. Remember why I'm here."

2.    The long pause.

Silence speaks volumes, and it's one of the most valuable tools you have in your pocket. When you're not speaking, you're not digging a rhetorical hole. You're not giving the other person ammunition to use against you.

Heck, maybe you're even listening, learning, gaining insight. The most important thing you're doing: Nothing. Emotionally intelligent people know to think before they speak or act. 

Tip: Count to five before you reply. Every single time.

3.     The Grayrock

I didn't know this technique had a name until recently. Want to end a fight? Just don't react. Become a gray rock in their world.

If they try to push your buttons--say, making a political point they know you'll hate--reply by talking about how much you like cranberry sauce. Or how you really enjoy cloudy days. Or how in your studied opinion, the fourth season of Seinfeld back in the 1990s was probably the best one.

Be boring, be obtuse, and win the battle by refusing to engage in it.

Tip: Think of four or five completely boring stories you can tell, even before you show up at dinner. You never know if you might need one or two of them.

4.    The silver lining shuffle

If you're at Thanksgiving dinner with people who are overwhelmingly toxic and bring nothing positive to your life, then we need to have a different conversation. But that's likely not the case.

There's almost certainly enough good in your relationship to justify a meal together. The trick here is to focus on whatever that is. Bring the conversation back around to positive, enjoyable things that you have in common. 

Tip: Think ahead of time, if you can, about one positive interaction you've had with anyone you'll be eating with. Have it at the ready to recount.

5.    The cold walk

One good thing about Thanksgiving being in November: It's almost always conducive to the nice, cold walk.

By this I mean there are many opportunities to simply get up and leave without causing offense. It's nice and healthy to decide hey, we've been cooped up in the house long enough, let's go outside for a bit. And you can always "suddenly realize" that you don't have enough cranberry sauce, and have to run to the store.

Tip: Don't tell anyone about Whole Foods having one-hour delivery on Thanksgiving.

6.    The packed schedule

Of all days, it can be fairly easy on Thanksgiving to "happen to have another dinner" that you have to make an appearance at. The value here is that you can beg off, leave without making a scene, and avoid giving too much offense. 

Tip: Have a plan B if need be--even if Plan B is that you need to go home and watch Netflix.

7.    The olive branch

It happens. Even the most emotionally intelligent people can misread a situation, or let their emotions get the best of them sometimes.

Or else, it might even be a less emotionally intelligent friend or family member who causes the fracas. So what?

Forgive yourself, forgive them, and move on. If you have to use rule #3 or #5 to make this happen first, that's fine too. Just go back to Rule #1 and remember why you're there to begin with.

Tip:    Be the bigger person. Extend your hand first. And be thankful you're in a position to do so.

Published on: Nov 22, 2018
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