It’s very uncomfortable being at dinner when, out-of-nowhere, a topic not suitable for discussion at the table is introduced. What do you do? Well the old Southern rule of table topics is this: “No religion, no sex, and no politics.” (Today we could certainly add more to that list.) And my favorite rule is“Listen carefully, I don’t repeat gossip!”
Dinner should be light and enjoyable and the talk around the table should be entertaining and conversational. Oftentimes we find ourselves in awkward situations. What one finds amusing is not always amusing to others; or worse, a topic of great controversy is introduced. How do we stop that train wreck?
We have all been there when a question or comment is made that totally stops conversation and then ultimately puts a damper on an evening. A minister’s wife gave me the best advice once, as she was always being put in the middle of situations. She said when a person makes a statement hoping for a response she always responds, “Well…”
For example: I think the choir was really bad today. “Well…” Her hair color is really awful don’t you think? “Well…” I will be glad when she retires. “Well…”
You are neither agreeing nor disagreeing with a comment and it usually gives you the opportunity to change the subject to something more pleasant.
Table talk should be a family time for sharing positives, successes, and triumphs in our lives. It should never be a place for an argument, budget concerns, or scolding of a child’s grades or school issues. Those discussions should always take place in private.
What do you do when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation? First, change the subject if you can by telling a funny story or sharing something humorous. Second, ask a question to someone at the table about themselves that will totally lead talk in a different direction. Third, sometimes being quiet and not commenting is the best course of action. Silence will many times squelch a conversation quickly. You can only have a conversation when two are talking. One just doesn’t work!
I love lighthearted table time when funny stories of our days are shared or when our grandchildren share things from their perspective. Always give children your undivided attention. They need to know that they are just as important as anyone at the table and that their comments are welcome.
I want people who come to my home to remember the fun times around the table. Laugh and enjoy these times. I can remember meals at my grandmother’s house when all the girl cousins would share stories of school, current loves, and bad hair days. Everything ended in laughter and those are the memories that I cherish.
What are your thoughts on dinner etiquette?