At the North Jersey Record—and who knows more about fighting than folks from Jersey, amirite?—Cindy Schweich Handler also goes the academic route. Her piece is about Thanksgiving stresses in general, but naturally the angry uncle makes an appearance:
Build alliances. “Most people can predict what’s going to happen,” says Jill Cermele, a professor of psychology at Drew University in Madison. “Uncle Joe’s going to talk politics, Grandma will ask if you have a boyfriend, your brother’s going to ask what you’re doing after college.” Plan for quick ways to deflect the conversation — for example, “I don’t know about that, but I do know that this stuffing is incredible.” Theresa Licata McConnell, who grew up in Asbury Park and Ocean Township, knew that her guests held opposing views on divisive issues like politics, so she reached out to trusted Thanksgiving guests to help her avoid the topics, and redirect the conversation if it headed into dangerous territory.
Plan fun, (non-partisan) topics. Ask everyone to take a turn saying what they’re thankful for this year. Get a clipboard and get guests’ predictions for the next year on uncontroversial topics. What movie will win the Best Picture Oscar? Which football teams are going to the Super Bowl? Let everyone know that next year, you’ll reveal the winners.
Watch your own alcohol intake. “You want to be in your right mind, so if wine enhances that, good,” says Benanti. “But know what it is that takes you off-center. I have clients who hit that third glass, and all hell breaks loose.”
“This stuffing is incredible” isn’t exactly the subtlest way of redirecting a conversation, but it’s so crazy it might work! And football predictions! This is basically just a variation on “don’t get sucked into talking about politics no matter what,” but sometimes the classic strategies are the best.
But what moves this from three uncles to four is the final bit: don’t drink so much you get plastered. In fact, I recommend serving limited amounts of alcohol so no one can get too plastered. This is truly admirable advice. Four uncles.