Can't We All Just Get Along? How to Collaborate with Relatives on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is that time when families come together to give thanks for all the good things that happened throughout the year. There's turkey, conversations, overflowing food, and, boy, can there be drama. For many of us, it seems like the minute you need to collaborate with your relatives on a project as major as Thanksgiving dinner, friction appears. So how do you deal with this? How do we all just GET ALONG?    

We previously posted about how to project manage Thanksgiving dinner, so check that out first for some solid tips on making sure the dinner is successful and pleases all stakeholders. 

What we want to underscore however, is that there are concrete ways to ensure smooth collaboration, even among the prickliest of in-laws. Our tried-and-tested tips:  

1. Over Communicate Details and Expectations.

Communicate the important dates and times: which days and what times people are arriving, what time you're serving the food on the day itself, etc. Include your expectations for the type of menu you want to serve. But remember, make sure you communicate that this is a suggestion only. Because if you want to avoid friction you need to pay attention to tip #2. 

2. Don't Micromanage! 

Collaboration is about each person bringing in their ideas and contributing to a whole. This means: allow your collaborators to chime in with their ideas for food, decor, music, whatever else you need. Don't dictate what they bring. Allow it to come from them. Even if it doesn't fit with your idyllic vision (e.g. someone just volunteered to bring chicken curry for a themed Italian dinner), don't shut them down. If they're dead set on bringing it, you'll only create ill will by blocking them. Simply remind them about the suggested theme, but in the end, let them bring what they want.

Hold on. Are you frothing at the mouth already because your vision for a perfectly themed dinner won't be fully realized?  Then you need #3.

3. Accept the Chaos Gracefully. 

Thanksgiving dinners will always generate a small percentage of havoc. It's part and parcel of the family experience, of people living far apart coming together. People might bring weird desserts. In-laws may make comments about your shabby decor. Or about one another's inferior cooking techniques. Or about Aunt Emma's affair. Smile! Be gracious! And if needed, there's a bottle of Chardonnay in the back of the cabinet that you can use to soothe your nerves.   

4.  Look at the Silver Lining.

In the end, it all boils down to how you choose to perceive the final product. You have a home full of loving (though maybe sometimes exasperating) people gathered about you, and a feast that would feed several starving nations twice over. Even if it doesn't go according to the plans in your head, you've come up with a product (the dinner, the experience) that still somehow pleases its intended audience (your family, loved ones, in-laws, out-laws). And THAT, my dear friends and blog readers, is what it's all about. 

Cheers, and happy Thanksgiving! 

IMAGE CREDITS: Kenny Louie on Flickr. Some rights reserved

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