Six Ways to Enhance Your Thanksgiving with Great Conversation!

As you look forward to bringing your family and friends together for the holidays, consider serving up some delectable conversation along with the victuals! Here are a half-dozen plus ways you can spice up your celebrations by adding a dash of provocative, entertaining, and illuminating talk.
What Do You Most Relish in Conversation?:
To start with, remind yourself of what you most relish in conversation. Recollect the most interesting conversation you had in the last week. (If you can’t think of one, get some new friends–fast!)
Ask yourself what made this conversation so enjoyable or valuable. When I ask this question, people usually say:
  • Sincerity/Caring
  • Wit or humor
  • Relevance
  • Charm
  • Originality
  • Clarity
  • Informativeness
Now think: which of the folks you’ll be having over are strong on one or another of these, and how can you give them a chance to express it? Who else might you invite who would bring delightful strengths to the conversation?
Holiday Thoughts:
Serve up some stimulating thoughts about the holidays themselves, easily available for a 30-minute Google search.
Try a Conversation Café:
Want to invite a few of your more thoughtful guests to go deeper? Try a “Conversation Café”, a simple but powerful way to enrich your sharing by passing around a “talking stick” (can be any object), which gives the person holding it the floor to express themselves fully on the topic of discussion. For the easy how-to, visit the Conversation Café.
Turn Your Party Into a Fascinating Salon:
Tap the riches in your circle by specifically asking two or three of your guests to tell the group about something exciting and interesting that they are passionate about: a civic project, a recent unusual journey, a newsworthy aspect of their profession.
Ask them in advance to be prepared to talk about it for 6 minutes, then hear others’ responses and questions. People need to be given permission to take the floor like this, but if they have something of real interest to talk about, others will welcome it. It turns your party into a fascinating Salon.
Really Listen to Your Guests:
Really listen to what your guests are saying when they touch on a subject of strong interest to them and to you, and make a point of asking for more. “Fred, that’s really interesting to me. Could you tell us more about how you learned that…how it works in practice…why you think it’s important…”
Avoid the “Organ Recital”:
Be on the qui vive to intervene when the talk gets turgid. Thoreau said, “We descend to meet.” Often there’s a tendency for people to head for the least common denominator in an effort not to seem pretentious. Nobody wants to be the one to offer a really stimulating, provocative, or informed thought. Some people even get mired in reciting their mutual aches and pains.  I call it the “organ recital.”
Consider it your responsibility as the host to move in at these points with a conversational pick-me-up. Your guests will bless you for it!
The Most Important Part of a Meal:
Conversation is your most readily-available, pervasive, and useful way to stimulate your mind and continue learning and growing. I was interviewed last week by a local talk-show host about how the right foods, exercise, etc. can keep our brains sharp. “What’s the most important part of a meal, for your mind?” the host asked.
My answer, “The conversation!”
Make that true at your table, too, and you’ll add a dimension to your holiday celebrations this year.


How Wise Are You? – Nov 20

How Wise Are You?
Socratic Conversation with Ron Gross
Thursday, November 20, 4-5:15 pm,

Celebrating World Philosophy Day (UNESCO)
Teachers College,Columbia University
525 West 120th St., Seminar Room 305, Russell Hall
There will be refreshments and a display of books on Wisdom.
Please bring photo ID for entry to the building.

Each year on the third Thursday in November, UNESCO invites friends of philosophy throughout the world to pursue “free, reasoned and informed thinking — thinking that works towards a better understanding of the world, promoting tolerance and peace.”

In response to that challenge, this session of the Socratic Conversations will examine ten behaviors associated with thinking and acting wisely, drawn from our world wisdom traditions and from scientific research on the subject.

Please come to share your ideas, experiences, and…wisdom! Among the topics we’ll discuss are:

  • How Do You Define Wisdom?
  • Who is Wise? How Can You Tell?
  • Is Wisdom Individual, or Collective?
  • Can Wisdom Be Taught? – or Learned?
  • Are you getting wiser?
  • If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Does Wisdom make us happier?
  • Does American culture value it?

This Conversation will be followed up by several sessions of the University Seminar which meets monthly, including sessions with Mark Brackett, of Yale University, on Emotional Intelligence (January 26th); George Bonanno, of Teachers College, Columbia University, on Resilience after Traumatic Loss ( December 8th) and Ursala Staudinger, of Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, on Wisdom(March).


Conversations New York Meeting Notice – Nov 20

You are warmly invited to the Monthly Meeting of CNY Members, Moderators, and Staff 
Thursday, Nov. 20, 5:30 – 7:00 pm 
(following the Socratic Conversation on “Wisdom” at 4:00 – 5:15 pm)
Teachers College, Columbia University
525 West 120th St., Gottesman Library, Room 104b
RSVP to and
Please bring photo ID required for entrance to building.

Please join us to celebrate CNY’s latest successes, including our upgraded website home-page (

You’ll meet other CNY members, help plan for exciting new initiatives, receive new materials to enhance your conversations, and learn how to become a leader in this burgeoning movement!

“CNY is the most successful project I know of, to reclaim the peerless joys and infinite possibilities of life’s greatest, and most useful, pleasure!”, says Catherine Blyth, author of The Art of Conversation.

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