Talking around the table: 2023 edition

Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving celebrations are perfect opportunities to share joys and concerns with people you love. You may not want to address this particular issue; it may feel uncomfortable. I get it. And still, I think you should.

Talking around the table: 2023 edition

I'm hosting Thanksgiving again this year. It's a smaller group, just my side of the family, with my parents traveling in from southern Pennsylvania and my brother and nephews, from Panama City, Florida. Our neighbors will come later for my mom's legendary pies.

We'll be gathering less than a year from what will be one of the most important, and likely contentious, elections in our lifetimes. With a likely presidential nominee still repeating false claims of election fraud that, he said, “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” the 2024 election and its aftermath will be far from politics as usual.

During a campaign, people will do or say just about anything to generate social media traffic. So we need to take statements like these with a grain of salt. But we've also seen Trump break many norms and rules of government, and break the law as well. Do we want this kind of person leading our country again? At a time when we're a half-step away from not just one, but two global conflicts?

From now through the election, NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen has been urging journalists to report on the stakes associated with the election, not just the odds a particular race or candidate will win. CNN's Oliver Darcy wrote about the "not the odds, but the stakes" mantra, which has taken off in journalism circles, last week.

I couldn't agree more – the stakes, today, are very high.

So: Shouldn't we be talking about the stakes as well, in our conversations with friends and family?

Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving celebrations are perfect opportunities to share joys and concerns with people you love. You may not want to address this particular issue; it feels uncomfortable. I get it. And still, I'd say you should.

Because as we've seen over the last several years, the freedoms and privileges we enjoy in the U.S. are not at all guaranteed.

Some tips

Here's how you can open the door for and guide this critical conversation.

The best opener is an "I" statement.

When you personalize the situation, you increase the chances your table-mates will respond respectfully rather than argumentatively. You can also preempt possible reactions. Like this:

"All, I just need to say something. It may not be something you want to hear, but I need to say it anyway. I'm really worried about next year's election."

Respectfully push through any "no politics here" protests.

Remember the stakes and muster your courage. You can say "I know, but hear me out."

Before opening up the discussion, share a quick summary of your concerns.

For example:

"There's so much confusing information out there that people may have lost sight of the fact that the likely Republican nominee is someone who doesn't value the law or even the Constitution. Did you see his statements from last Saturday? He's been indicted for breaking the law and is friendly to Russia, which is eager to beat Ukraine and move onto other countries. Here in the U.S., more civil rights could be compromised, especially among his opponents. He could change the rules so he stays in power indefinitely. I fear for our future! What do you all think?"

Next, you must listen and acknowledge the responses.

Make eye contact. Don't interrupt. Try hard to check your emotions as people express their views – especially if they disagree. No eye-rolling! Pick a listening response like "I hear you" or "Yeah, I get it."

Prepare for rejoinders.

Responder: "But the president is so old!
You: "Just four years older, and also I don't care. We can't have an authoritarian in power here."

Responder: "That's all a massive witch hunt."
You: "There are 91 indictments. They can't all be wrong and the evidence is damning."

Responder: "The fake news media is overblowing all of those lawsuits."
You: "I mean, quality media outlets are how we know what's going on, aren't they. So not sure what you mean. [insert favorite outlet] has been researching and reporting tirelessly on this. I don't trust random YouTubers with who-knows-what agendas. Do you?"

Responder: "There you go again with your liberal rants."
You: "Call it what you want but this is not about politics. It's about America as we know it, keeping the freedoms we take for granted. And stopping this norm of everyone lashing out at one another all the time. Don't you want these divisive times to end?"

If any name-calling emerges, you can have zero tolerance for that. We have to stop normalizing the trashing and attacking. "Can we please stop with the name-calling?"

Include what you'll do but keep it in the "I" realm. Don't try to tell others what to do.

"I for one am going to stand against having a dictatorship here. I'll vote for candidates with integrity, meaning they don't lie, cheat or try to illegally hold onto power. I want people in government who don't have to resort to attacking their opponents or overthrowing the government to win. It's important in both national and local races. That's my take, thanks for listening, and I'll respect whatever choices you may make."

Follow up with something fun!

"Now let's have pie!"

"Kyle, tell us about that weather report video you made. So cool!"

You're gathering tomorrow with people you trust, at least for the most part. That creates space for conversations like these. Just a few minutes will help! And if you treat others with respect it will go far in ensuring the conversation doesn't get out of control.


I try to be balanced in my writing and speaking and avoid calling out individual candidates directly; the Truth in Common approach is intentionally nonpartisan. And like Rosen said, it's about the stakes. The threat is significant; we need to name it and push back against it.

I hope next year's Talking at the Table post is less cautionary. I honestly don't think it will be that simple. But we'll see.

For more information

Finally -- welcome to new members! Serena, Sara, Catherine, Patty, John, Eron, Lee, Shari, Diane, Hadley, Felix, Kristine, Kyle, Bill, Scott, Melissa, Martha, Ben, Melody, Ian, Andy, Kari, Mija, Dev, Eva, Dan, Leslie, Melinda, Carolyn, Maggie, Kimberly, Ruben, Jen, Michael, Shawn and Paul!

Enjoy 🦃! And let us know how it goes!

Deanna Troust
Founder and President, Truth in Common

Follow us on LinkedIn | X/Twitter | Threads | Instagram

Thank you for your support! You can opt out of this newsletter/update list at any time -- just reply to this email.