You are either cooking the bird and are busy up to your elbows, or, you are hauling across the country to eat it. Either way, you probably have feelings about the holiday. And while we might not think so, most of our thoughts are generally focused on ourselves. Have I gained weight? What will I wear? How will I measure up? How will I talk about my disappointments, my failures? What should I bring? Who should I bring? As usual, it's still all about us.
If we take deliberate thought and action, however, Thanksgiving can become a great moment to step outside of yourself and consider, if not downright celebrate, the others around you. Think about why you care about them, what you appreciate that they do, and how much care and work it's taken for them to get where they are. Think back over the year or years and focus on how they have been there for you. Or, consider what it is about them that makes them special to you. If you're stuck on ideas, at the very least, comment positively on something they are wearing and ask about where they got it. Or ask about a dish they brought and how they cooked it. Ask about their year: their surprises, their trips, their work, what they read or saw -- their lives.
And, in response, make yourself say something positive out loud. More than faint praise - you know the kind you usually get and hate. A lot more. Focus on them. Expand a little. They will bask in it. You'll like yourself better. And, if they haven't returned the favor, you can answer as if they had. They may have meant to.
Giving compliments is not considered an art. All too often it's a loaded form of social exchange. We consider it something not to butter up the bird, but the receiver, to either manipulate them or get something out of them.
What a shame! Honest, positive comments show that we are witnesses to each other's acts, that we notice, that we care. Complimenting another is a loving and joyful act to the other and to ourselves. Consider the praise you can remember; didn't it feel like you were recognized? Practice giving out sincere compliments on Thanksgiving until you perfect the art for Christmas and New Year's and for holidays to come.
If you dare to, ask each one at the table to go around twice: first saying what they are thankful for, and then something complimentary about the person sitting to their right. Who knows, this year's Thanksgiving might be sweeter than the pumpkin pie. It'll feel better too. I promise!
Make your luck happen!
Author of Skills for Success and Launch Your Career in College