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3 ways to keep dinner table conversation cheery this Christmas

By Alana Pahor, Copywriting & Editing Intern at Talent Academy

Ah, Christmas - a time to reconnect with family and friends over some well-deserved food and festivities. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.

Yet Christmas dinner often ends up feeling anything but festive, featuring dull, awkward or downright grinchy conversation that has you wishing for the family reunion to end ASAP.

Luckily, Talent Academy is here to show you how you can single handedly save Christmas dinner (and your family relationships) with 3 witty communication tactics that keep the conversation stubbornly cheerful. No grinches allowed!

1. Avoid awkward silences with fun, festive questions

No one likes awkward silences - but it often seems that no one likes filling them, either. It’s as if the silence wipes people’s brains clean of any potential conversation starters.

This is where fun, festive questions come to the rescue - because the best way to get people talking is by asking them about themselves.

Here’s a few fun, Talent Academy-approved questions to try at the dinner table this Christmas:

  • What is the coolest gift you’ve ever given someone?

  • Are you realistically on Santa’s Nice List or Naughty List?

  • When is too early to put up the Christmas tree?

  • What’s your favourite and least favourite Christmas movie?

  • What personal achievements are you proudest of this year?

  • If you could give one present to the whole world, what would it be and why?

  • Which Christmas reindeer best embodies you as a person?

  • What past/new Christmas traditions do you wish we’d revive/try?

These questions (and any others you can think of) can be great conversation starters when paired with active listening and follow-up questions. Goodbye, awkward silence.

2. Talk about the past, present, and future

One of the best ways to rekindle connections with family and friends is by reminiscing about the past - because you can’t help but feel a sense of togetherness as you collectively take a stroll down memory lane.

Here are three good questions to bring up the past:

  1. “Remember when we … ?”

  2. “What’s your favourite Christmas memory as a family?”

  3. “How many years ago did we … ?”

Suddenly, you’ve transferred good memories (and their associated feelings) from the past into the present, creating a cheery atmosphere around the dinner table. Time to make some new, better memories!

But there’s no need to stop there; you can set up next year’s Christmas dinner for cheeriness by talking about the future. Some good phrases for this are:

  1. “Next Christmas, we could try … ”

  2. “I really liked … this Christmas. We should definitely do … again next year.”

  3. “What are you looking forward to next year?”

By talking about the future, you’ve translated the cheery present into a cheery, hypothetical future, leaving your family and friends with a warm, fuzzy, hopeful feeling (although maybe that’s just from all the Christmas food).

You can find out more about the Past, Present and Future technique in Tom’s upcoming eBook, That Sucks, Try This.

3. Avoid COVID-19 talk like it's ... COVID-19

Yes, I know it's tempting to talk about COVID-19 and other serious current events - after all, they’re regularly on our minds, relatable, and an easy way to fill the silence.

But please, for the sake of the Christmas spirit, don’t talk about COVID-19. We’ve heard it all over the news this year; we don’t need it at the dinner table.

As you can read about in Tom’s new book, talking about saddening events is a terrible idea at cheery Christmas dinners as humans are empathisers. That is, we have no choice but to feel at least a fraction of what the speaker (or the characters they talk about) feels.

Naturally, gloomy COVID-19 or current events talk will do just that - make your family and friends gloomy. That’s not very festive!

To keep the Christmas spirit alive, we recommend using the following phrases when a dinner guest brings up gloomy topics:

  • “Speaking of that, did you hear about [different, mutually interesting topic]?”

  • “Santa would not approve of this conversation. Let’s talk about … “

  • “I’m sick of talking about COVID-19, if you get my pun.”

Once the gloomy topic has been successfully diverted, you can follow it up with a festive question or fun story to keep your family and friends cheerful.

So there we have it - Talent Academy’s top 3 communication tactics for keeping Christmas dinner table conversation cheerful!

With a little practice, you’ll be creating wonderful Christmas memories (and banishing grinches) with your family and friends.

Have a merry Christmas and happy new year!


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