Ahhh, Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday of the year. A time to reconnect with family and friends, gorge yourself without guilt on calorie-ridden foods, and slip into a food coma while watching endless football games, parades and feel-good holiday movies on TV.

Yes, giving thanks for all of your blessings with close family sounds serene in theory, but unfortunately Thanksgiving Dinner can be way more stressful than that – especially one after this latest big election.

Luckily for us PR professionals, we can use our communications skills on this great American holiday to help reduce stress in the kitchen and at the dinner table, bringing together family members of all ages and beliefs to have a fun and festive holiday! It’s simple, just use the communication skills you utilize every day for work, and do a little tweaking to make them work for your familia. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Suck it up and put on a happy face. Tired from a three hour road trip that should have taken 30 minutes without traffic? Flight got cancelled and you had to go from California to Dallas to get back up to Seattle? Even though all you want to do is crawl in bed with a good bottle of scotch — your family hasn’t seen you in months, so suck it up, take a deep breath and put on that happy face. You do it for work every day; the least you can do is the same for your family that (hopefully!) adores you.
  • Be a good listener. Good listening skills and showing genuine interest are the hallmarks of any good communicator. You’re rested up from your long travels – now is the time to really catch up and listen to what your family has been up to. Yes, it is easier than ever now with FaceTime and Skype to stay in touch with long-distance relatives, but there is nothing like in-person contact to re-establish your connections. Take advantage of your time at home and actively listen.
  • Let others talk. You just got to your Thanksgiving fete and haven’t seen some people in ages, so they will be asking you lots of questions about yourself. That’s great, but don’t be THAT person who does all the talking. What you are saying may be of interest to you only. Keep the other person in mind, giving him/her a chance to be a part of the conversation. Look for signals that you may be boring your listener and ask questions to involve them in the conversation.
  • If all else fails, Deflect, Defect, Deflect! Things have been going swimmingly, but all of a sudden Aunt Edna has had one too many and refuses to stop talking about her take on the election. Now is the time to actively use your crisis communication skills and deflect, deflect, deflect! Take Aunt Edna into the other room, change the subject and get her mind going onto something else she adores – like her 10 dogs, 5 cats and herself. If there’s one thing we know how to do as PR professionals, it is how to deflect from a seemingly bad situation and turn lemons into lemonade.
  • Show appreciation and affection. Just as any good PR campaign must come to an end, so must our Thanksgiving vacations. And just like in any good PR campaign, it is always good to congratulate yourself and your team and show appreciation for a job well done. Let your loved ones know how much they mean to you, and show gratitude and affection for your time together. The turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy may be my favorite meal, but it’s the time spent with family and friends that make Thanksgiving to me truly special.

Happy Thanksgiving!