Good food is a staple of every Thanksgiving meal, but good conversation can be harder to come by. As with any large gathering, you never know what’s going to happen. We’re all entitled to differing views, but it’s usually best to leave hot-button issues at the door. If your family gravitates toward topics that can turn into conflict, it’s smart to be prepared with some conversation starters to steer the discussion in a safe direction.

According to research, real conversation makes us happier than small talk, and holiday gatherings provide the perfect opportunity to delve a little deeper with loved ones. However, with relatives and friends of all ages and political persuasions coming together, it can be hard to find topics to discuss that span generations and spur meaningful discussions. So this year, instead of talking about the weather, come to the Thanksgiving table prepared. Sometimes all you need to do is ask a great question or two to get the ball rolling.

Don’t forget, elders in your family are often an untapped reservoir of wisdom and amazing memories. Asking specific questions about their past can reveal fun stories.

You can ask a specific person a few of these questions or pose them to the whole table. If you want to take a more formal approach, you can write the questions down and pass them around. Guests can choose which question they’d like to answer and, once they respond, the rest of the table can have the opportunity to chime in. Another option is to simply have these ideas on hand in case conversation fizzles or you need to direct your guests away from a tense topic.

  1. What lesson have you learned this year that you are thankful for?
  2. If you could invite one famous person to this Thanksgiving dinner, living or dead, who would it be?
  3. Have you taken any short weekend getaways recently that you’d recommend?
  4. If you could only eat one food on this table for an entire year, what would it be?
  5. What’s the best travel experience you’ve ever had?
  6. What has been your favorite holiday celebration to date?
  7. What’s the best surprise you’ve ever received?
  8. What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever had?
  9. What’s your signature dish to make?
  10. Do you have any podcasts you’d recommend?
  11. If you could teleport, where would you go right now?
  12. Are there any household chores you secretly enjoy? Which ones and why?
  13. If you could sit down with your 16-year-old self, what would you tell him or her?
  14. What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of but would never put on your résumé?
  15. What’s something you’re glad you did, but will never do again?
  16. What’s the most out-of-character choice you’ve ever made?
  17. If your life had a theme song, what would it be and why?
  18. Where and when do you get your best ideas?
  19. What famous person has made the biggest impression on you?
  20. When are you most at peace?
  21. What is your dream job?
  22. What is your favorite book/album/movie of all time?

If you threw out some questions and the conversation still isn’t flowing, bring out the party games after dinner

Source: “45 Conversation Starters for the Thanksgiving Table,” Jessica Stillman,, Nov. 22, 2017.