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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dinner Table Diplomacy

One of the prime loci for conflict at Christmas is...yes, the dinner table.

Breaking bread seems to make us want to break noses.

There are undoubtedly deep-seated psychological reasons for this. Perhaps we should place a therapist at the head of every dinner table, share how we're really feeling, and have a group hug afterwards...


Oh, very well. Here, then, are some suggestions for a harmonious dinner, with guests, in your house.

  • Remember that it's your house. You have the right to set some rules and boundaries, and you don't have to vacillate under pressure. "This is my choice" is a perfectly good answer when you turn a conversation from a sensitive subject, or choose to seat venomously warring cousins at separate tables.
  • Manage time - don't call the guests to the table until food is actually ready to be served. Waiting is a great incubator for idle thoughts and conflict. And have an activity scheduled to begin just after dessert - again, leave no time to sit at the table.
  • Use tall centerpieces to break up lines of sight across the table if you feel a conflict might brew. It's hard to argue through or around an immense floral spray.
  • If you serve alcohol, serve it sparingly, because it loosens inhibitions against "in your face" argumentative behaviour.
  • Put the dinner table - or tables - in view of the Christmas tree. It's a soothing element.
  • Play favorites by talking with the quietest guests. The effort to to this can forestall those who are argumentative.
  • Keep party favours - small wrapped gifts for each guest - in reserve. If necessary, distribute them to defuse developing tension.
  • Above all - keep calm, and don't be drawn into conflict. It takes two to argue. An individual talking without response will realize the silliness of his situation in short order.
If you're not the host, the last point will be most operative - you can't really control the overall flow of events, but you can control yourself.

If a guest begins to become confrontational during time spent socializing away from the table, you can have a preplanned strategy to cull that person from the 'herd'; lead him or her somewhere else, without referring to their poor behaviour. If distracted long enough, most people will forget what they had been talking about previously.

We wish you a Christmas season of joyful times and happy memories!


  1. I like this. How did you get so smart?

  2. Wow, thank you! You made my day!

    While I'm still here, I'd just like to help people look to the good, and get along.

  3. Amen to helping people look to the good and get along!

    We had something strange happen with our Red Heeler recently. I know you love dogs, so you'll probably be interested in this. A couple of weeks ago I got up one morning and couldn't figure out why our 8-year-old fur-baby didn't jump up and beg to be let out like she normally does. I investigated and discovered that she was unable to move her back legs. Terrible, sad, scary... all sorts of fears of what the problem could be ran through my mind, as I'm sure you can imagine.

    My husband and I carried her out to the truck -- she weighs over 70 pounds. We got her to the vet's and after he examined her, he said that she had lost 100% of her back legs -- meaning there were no reflexes and no sign of any deep pain response -- plus she had lost 10% of the reflexes in her front legs. She also had lost control of her bowels and bladder. All of her blood tests and x-rays were normal, with the exception that he found signs of stress, which would be a normal response in an intelligent active dog who didn't know why she could not feel or use the back half of her body.

    But the vet had a "hunch." He wanted to give her a steroid injection and keep her overnight so he could observe how her body responded. We didn't want to leave her, she's a rescue with abandonment issues, but he persuaded us that it was the best thing for Lady.

    I couldn't sleep that night, I kept praying and reliving our last walk together, which we had done the evening before she woke up paralyzed. Lady and I typically walk at least a mile every day, weather permitting. During our last walk there had been no sign of lameness. I cried, thinking that might have been our very last walk.

    By 6 a.m. the next morning the vet found her standing and wagging her tail. Over the next several days, her mobility and reflexes slowly returned. Today, our Lady-girl is running and playing like a puppy again!

    We love our fur-baby so much. We are very grateful to have her still with us and still functioning. Every day I pray that she will be with us, healthy and happy, for a long time to come.

    But we never know, do we, when it is our "last walk." I try to make every day and every walk special, for that reason.

    God bless you, brother. Your blog blesses me. I'm still writing my memoir, Going Crazy, but it's a rough task.


    1. Awesome. That is a miracle. Yes, aided by a smart vet and steroids - but God works with the tools that are available. After all - Jesus used spit and dirt to let a blind man see. Tools! (And talk about field-expedient!)

      It's a good thing to be cognizant of the ephemeral nature of our lives. Each walk can be the last one, each goodbye can be final. It's not a negative attitude - it's reality.

      I really look forward to your comments, and your memoir is going to help a LOT of people.

  4. Thank you, your encouragement means so much. Happy Christmas Eve.

    1. And to you...though now it's Christmas Morning!