International etiquette expert offers tips on how to keep peace at Thanksgiving

There’s nothing quite like everyone coming together for Thanksgiving dinner, that is, until something goes wrong. Maybe it’s old family drama that gets brought up, a difference in political opinions or a guest who drinks more than he should. How can you make sure things go smoothly?

Sharon Schweitzer is an international etiquette expert and author who offers these seven tips:

  1. Include safety measures in the invitation: As a host, advise your guests about your pandemic safety requirements in advance to avoid awkwardness. How will vaccination status and the wearing of face-coverings, or masks be managed? Will ventilation, an indoor or outdoor area be available? Be prepared by including this with the invitation. 
  1. Preload dinner dialogue: Be informed with relevant conversation topics by beginning your morning reading news that impacts your world or local news. Check 2021’s Nobel Prize winners, and your bookstore’s Top 100 Bestsellers for potential subjects. Have pleasant convo starters for intriguing dinner dialogue and recruit allies to help you keep things on track.
  1. Seating plan: Organizing the table in advance with name cards puts your guests at ease. This avoids the last-minute dilemma of selecting a seat for a new friend or significant other. Keep conversation interesting by seating extroverts next to introverts. Seat kiddos next to elders. Avoid melodrama by separating sassy cats at the table. 
  1. Host’s toast: Before the meal, raise a toast thanking your guests for accepting your invitation to attend and set boundaries. Consider: “As we express our gratitude for our blessings, let us remember to be civil and kind at our holiday table. We know different generations like or dislike talking about politics so to keep the peace, we appreciate everyone avoiding politics at the table. Instead, let us share their thoughts on upcoming travel, books and pets.” Close with a positive tone and humor. 
  1. Hone your hearing skills: As a host or savvy guest, when controversial topics like politics, vaccines, or prying personal questions arise, graciously segue the dialogue in a different direction. For example, if your Uncle Dave asks your neighbor Bob the pilot their thoughts on federal vaccine mandates, interject with, “Oh Bob, we would love to hear about your Labrador retriever’s obedience training! How did that go?” Raise a new but interesting topic.
  1. Wine: Either pour wine yourself or designate a co-host to serve wine gracefully and properly. This allows the hosts to monitor wine consumption by keeping the bottle close by and controlling glass refill. If a guest has reached their limit, you can strategize accordingly. After cousin Jamie’s enjoyed three glasses of wine, maybe it is time for coffee or dessert.
  1. Rascals as guests: Hosts may exhaust their best tactics and yet guests may over consume, overshare, or overdo political rantings. After your best attempts to pour coffee or change the conversation flop, ask the rascal guest to help you in the kitchen so you can speak to them privately. In a quiet area away from other guests, gently advise them this is not the time or place. Avoid embarrassing them in a group setting.

Sharon Schweitzer is a cross-cultural consultant, etiquette expert and best-selling and international award-winning author, She has built a career around understanding cultural differences and the tremendous role they play in building strong and successful international business relationships. She lives in Austin with her husband John. For more, go to