11/23/2011 12:39 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2012

The Thanksgiving Challenge

You are either going to be busy up to your elbows cooking the bird, or driving somewhere to eat it with family or friends. Either way, you probably have mixed feelings about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. No surprise. Like all of us, you are thinking about yourself. Have you gained weight? What will you wear? How should you talk about your disappointments -- a recent lay-off or a break-up? What should you bring? Who should you bring? Your thoughts are firmly focused on how you'll do.

As a coach, let me suggest reframing Thanksgiving this year, treating it as a great moment to step outside yourself to consider and celebrate those around you. Think about why you care about them, what makes them special, and what they do that you appreciate. Scan the past to see how they have been there for you. Use this time to share those thoughts.

Compliments are often suspect -- something used to butter someone up just to get what you want. Yet, honest, positive comments demonstrate that we are, in fact, witnesses to each other's acts, acts that we notice and care about. The praise you recall made you feel recognized. We all crave such validation, especially from our family and friends. Far from being manipulative, complimenting others is loving and joyful, which, in turn, creates joy in oneself.

If you're stuck in a situation where you simply can't come up with a genuine compliment for someone around that table, at the very least, you can comment positively on something they are wearing and ask about where or how they got it, or about a dish they have made or brought. Ask about their year -- their surprises, their trips, their work, what books they have read or movies they have seen. Even if you're not interested, fake it; it's contagious. At the very least, tap into empathy as you hear tales of unemployment, sickness, financial worries, boredom, and yes, even death.

Prepare yourself for such interactions with family members or friends. Think of something to share of your own. But more importantly, practice being positive out loud, with lavish praise being far greater than faint praise -- you know, the kind you usually hear and hate.

On Thursday, focus on them and expand a little, if not a lot. They will bask in it. You'll like yourself better for it. And, even if they haven't returned the favor, imagine they had. They may have meant to.

If you are up to more risk-taking, invite each person at the table to go round-robin and say something (major or minor) that they are thankful for, and then something complimentary about the one sitting to their right. Start first to serve as a model. Gently nudge each to take a turn, knowing they'll be resistant at first. Who knows, this year's Thanksgiving might be sweeter than even the pumpkin pie. And it beats the same-old, same-old.

Why stop there? You might consider going out of your way to compliment others through New Year's -- your co-workers, bosses, clients, or people standing in line with you. See what happens when you jiggle with reality. Who knows what the outcome will be, but I promise it will be greater than you expect.

Make your luck happen!