Resources for Creating a Safer, Saner, More Loving World

Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide – Part 2

This is the second post in our Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide series.

by Seth Eisenberg

What will guests remember about your Thanksgiving celebration? Much like our own recollections of earlier years, before long, the taste of the delicious turkey, stuffing and accompaniments will soon fade. What will remain are memories of the emotions your guests felt and meaningful conversations shared. Whether your Thanksgiving meal involves just two of you or a large group, after setting the table with fine dishes and a spread of your favorite family recipes, or even take-out, adding the Daily Temperature Reading (DTR) is sure to make your special family gathering an event everyone will long cherish and remember.

Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide

The DTR is a guided conversation that nurtures relationships much like water and sunlight brings life to a garden. The five steps were originally created by the late Virginia Satir, a pioneer in the field of marriage and family and the first honorary chair of PAIRS Foundation. It is one of the most important tools couples learn in relationship and marriage education classes.

Appreciations: Take turns going around the table and invite each guest to share one or more appreciations about other family members or friends who are present. The only rule is that they’re sincere and specific. We can find something good in anyone, but too often, we keep those thoughts and observations to ourselves. Beginning with sincere, specific appreciations encourages connection, good will, boosts self-worth and self-esteem. Starting with yourself as host, generously express something specific that’s special for you about each of your Thanksgiving guests, being very aware to look into the eyes of the person you’re talking about, and then invite each guest, “At this time of Thanksgiving, what are some specific appreciations you have for any of the people at our table?” If you have young children, you can also give them the option to share, “What are some things you’d most like others to appreciate about you?”

New Information: Next, invite each guest to share something that’s new in their life. For those who get together only infrequently, this is a chance to catch up on the events that have been most meaningful in the lives of your family members and friends. For others who see or talk together daily, it’s also an important opportunity to learn more about the recent events, thoughts, or experiences that have been especially significant. Go around the table and invite each guest, “Tell us about what’s new in your life that’s meaningful for you.”

Puzzles: Assumptions can be deadly to close relationships. Puzzles is an invitation for your guests to ask anything they may be wondering about, and possibly get answers as well. Your Thanksgiving guests may not each have a puzzle, but if they do, this is an invitation to check it out with the person who might be able to offer missing information or insight. Go around the table and check-in with each person, “What are you wondering about that someone at our table might be able to answer?” This is not a time to bring up nuclear issues that could embarrass another guest. Children are often especially appreciative of the chance to check out their puzzles. Knowing we’re listened to and respected is a gift in and of itself.

Concerns with Recommendations: From the greatest teams, athletes, organizations, communities and systems of all shapes and size, becoming the best we can be in collaboration with others requires being open to hearing and sincerely considering the concerns of others along with their specific suggestions for how to make things better. Maybe it’s about more family time, a new recipe, suggested venue for the next holiday gathering, request for a family service project, or anything in between. It can be about a behavior or endeavor, so long as it’s not a judgment, attack or criticism of another person. As you go around the table, check-in with each person, asking, “What concerns with recommendations can you share with us?” Having concerns or complaints without specific requests for what someone wants instead is not a gift to any relationship. Although sharing concerns after expressing appreciations, new information, and checking out puzzles, together with a suggested resolution, is a sign that relationships matter.

Wishes, Hopes, Dreams: The idea that when we really want something we should carefully imagine it in the quiet of our mind without ever sharing it aloud is a recipe for unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. The people around your Thanksgiving table, perhaps more than any group in your family’s life, have enormous ability to help each other’s dreams come true. And sharing our dreams also helps us breath life into our own hopes for the future. Take time to allow each guest to answer, “What are your wishes, hopes or dreams?”

Families, organizations and communities that work well together regularly incorporate the five steps of the DTR into their interactions. Organizations as well may incorporate it into daily or weekly team meetings. Before long, it becomes a habit to actively express appreciations and acknowledgements to the people we’re closest to, keep each other up-to-date with new information, check out assumptions by asking questions directly instead of assuming, express concerns to help relationships grow in a positive way along with specific recommendations, and regularly share our wishes, hopes and dreams. Bringing the DTR to your Thanksgiving dinner will make the gathering one each of your guests will long cherish and remember. The conversation and lesson will be one that continues to create reasons for celebration all year long.

Seth Eisenberg is President of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.

Additional Resources

Thanksgiving Family Survival Guide, Part One

Daily Temperature Reading

Thanksgiving Recipes

National Healthy Marriage Resource Center

PAIRS Foundation

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October 2010
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