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3 Safe Holiday Conversation Starters (and 3 to Avoid)

November 28, 2018

Avoid Family Conflict with These Safe Holiday Conversation Starters

The holidays can bring out the best in people. But they can also be the perfect setup for family fallouts and relationship conflicts.

Whether you picture yourself surrounded by close family and friends at an oversized dinner table or prefer to keep your festivities on the simpler side, there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate the season. If your preferred celebration leaves you concerned about conversational tension though, a little prep can go a long way.

One effective piece of holiday advice is to avoid topics that can almost certainly lead to disagreements and instead focus on holiday conversation starters that are inclusive, lighthearted, and positive in nature. Here are some of our favorites.

Recommended Holiday Conversation Starters

The following are broad topics that can help spawn a series of mini-conversations. Remember to keep conversations pleasant and should there be a disagreement, focus on making sure a dialogue, not an argument, follows.


Are you or a family member planning an exciting trip for 2019? Or maybe someone just returned from a cruise or backpacking excursion. Have an open discussion! If travel isn’t common for your family, plan a fantasy trip together that’s not impossible to make come true one day.

New Year’s resolutions

About 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the end of February. Go around the table and see if anyone is planning to ditch a bad habit or start a new healthy one. Then remember to encourage family members when they need it most.


What’s everyone watching, reading, or listening to? Discuss your favorite podcast or suggest a new and upcoming author for everyone to check out.

Holiday Conversation Starters to Avoid

In most cases, the following topics should be avoided. If you notice the conversation headed towards one of the following subjects, do your best to steer it in a different direction.


Polls conducted after the 2016 election showed 16% of respondents had stopped talking to a family member or friend because of their political differences. Chances are, not all your family has identical political beliefs. Keep politics off the table to avoid the potential of irreversible damage.


Losses come in many forms. Whether someone lost a close family member, pet, job, or something emotionally valuable to them, bringing the subject up should be avoided. Even if the intent is to check in on the person, allow the affected individual(s) to be the first to discuss a loss incident. If their wellbeing is of concern, they should be reached out to in a private manner rather than in a group setting.


No family is immune to divorce, legal issues, or personal struggles. Avoid family gossip at all costs. If word gets back to a family member that you were discussing their misfortune, no matter how good your intent, the damage to your relationship could be irreparable and the struggling family member could distance themselves.

Tips for the Host

If you’re hosting your family’s holiday celebration, there are a few things you can do to ensure the festivities are enjoyable.

Set expectations

If you’re hosting, you have the right (and responsibility) to set the tone. Make sure guests know what time to arrive and an estimate on when the gathering will wrap up. Are you exchanging gifts or maybe donating to a local charity instead? When it comes to holiday conversation starters, don’t be afraid to let guests know what’s off limits.

Be prepared

If Uncle Steve always complains about the pie because it’s just not the way his grandma used to make it, accept that he’s probably going to complain again this year. Practice an appropriate response beforehand, say it when necessary, and let it go.

Don’t do all the work

Doing all the work for a holiday gathering is sure to put you in a bad mood. Don’t be afraid to politely ask for help and then delegate appropriate tasks to those who are able.

The holidays come every year. If you made it through all your past festivities, you can make it through this year as well.

While it’s okay to fantasize about the perfect holiday, accept that it’s only one day and that a burnt meal or less than pleasant conversation shouldn’t be enough to ruin the season.

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