Tips for a successful virtual Thanksgiving

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DENVER (KDVR) — Let’s face it: Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different this year. No large gatherings among friends and relatives in the kitchen, and much smaller place-settings at the dining room table. But perhaps the biggest change will be navigating Thanksgiving conversation in a virtual setting.

“I think it makes it a little harder to have difficult conversations,” says Dr. Leaf Van Boven.

Van Boven is a psychology professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, and says people need to be very careful with approaching conversations around the table this year. 

He says that’s especially true with politics, coming off a contentious election. 

“When we’re having face-to-face interactions, we tend to not be as confrontational and we can pick up on really subtle things,” he says. “As good as Zoom or whatever is, they don’t really convey the level of detail we get in a genuine face-to-face conversation. Because of that, we need to be a little more on-guard about getting worked up and angry. It’s just easier to yell at someone and tell someone off over Zoom.”

Van Boven says more than ever, families should focus on shared common values. 

“Ask your family members to kind of explain the way they feel they do, starting with that perspective of, ‘We have a lot of shared values and common interests, we want the same thing, tell me why you feel the way you do about this,'” he says. “Ask those probing questions to really try to understand what the other side is thinking, rather than trying to convince them that they’re thinking the wrong thing.”

Van Boven also recommends doing “break out” Zoom sessions, or a round robin format, to make sure nobody dominates the conversation. 

“You need to structure it a bit more, be attentive to make sure everyone has a chance to jump in,” he says. “Some of these things — they feel awkward, they feel corny, but what have we got to lose at this point?”

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