5 Ways to be the Perfect Thanksgiving Host in Difficult Circumstances

This is a busy and important week for most American families as we prepare for Thanksgiving on Thursday.

a hug of support between men, Brad W. Smith photographer Alt: White man, black man, in a hug of friendship in a private home.

We come together to celebrate our relationships with each other, to rejoice in our blessings and support each other in our sorrows.

There’s a lot to be done, especially if you’re the host or hostess. You want everything to be perfect, including the conversation.

With the unemployment rate nationally still at more than 7%, chances are pretty good that one or more of your guests will be unemployed or significantly underemployed.

Conversations around the dinner table don’t have to be difficult if you remember a few simple tips.

Change up the conversation.

Instead of the usual, “What are you thankful for this year?,” a question that can put people on the defensive, start your conversation off on a high note by asking, “What’s been keeping you busy?” This allows everyone, including the job-hunter, wide latitude in how to answer. If he or she has recently landed a job, you’ll hear about it soon enough.

Less is more

Sometime the best way to have a conversation is to have less of it. Unless you’re directly asked, refrain from offering job search tips or recommending the person look for or accept lesser jobs. In fact, refrain from criticizing or offering unsolicited advice to anyone.

Validate emotions

Telling others how they should feel is never a good idea. It’s disingenuous for someone who is currently employed to tell someone in need of job to be thankful for prolonged unemployment. “You should be thankful for your family and your health!” Likewise, directing someone to only speak of positive things indicates your own discomfort with adversity, negates the speaker’s feelings, and separates rather than unites the two of you. If the unemployed person is upbeat and thankful, accept the statements as genuine. If the speaker’s statements are negative, be open to hearing them by expressing support and empathy for the speaker, without minimizing feelings or the situation.

Be supportive – in private

In a private moment before the job-seeker leaves, take time to convey your support and concern. “I know its hard work and it can be discouraging looking for a job, I want to check in with you on how you are doing.” Focus on the speaker and listen to the answer for clues as to whether you can do something to help. If you hear there is a need you are willing and able to fill, offer your help to do something specific. If you’re not sure, follow up with a simple question. “What can I do to make this easier for you?”

Be supportive – in public

Always offer encouragement and express your belief in the person’s ability to land another job. “You are good at what you do and I know you will be a strong contributor to whatever company is fortunate enough to hire you. The waiting and not knowing is hard, and I know you are doing everything you can. You will be successful in finding another job, I have faith in you.”

Life Is Honest, Open and True: Hosting the family Thanksgiving dinner can be a daunting and stressful undertaking for even the most experienced host. It’s important to remember that the day is about renewing and restoring relationships. Make the most of the time by keeping the conversation upbeat while allowing guests to share their feelings, if they choose, and being open to whatever they say.

Are Thanksgiving Day conversations likely to be stressful for you this year? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!

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