Spinning Tales — Be Careful What You Say

By Dennis L. Morgan


The crops are nearly all harvested. We have a corn mountain on the south edge of town, a sign that it’s time to give thanks for all of God’s blessings.

Elgin, as is much of Nebraska, is a community which depends heavily on agriculture for its’ vitality. Every year acre after acre of corn and soybeans are planted and nurtured in hopes that when harvest time rolls around, it will produce a bountiful crop. When storms arise in the west, we hope and pray they pass us by so as not to damage the crops in the fields.

So, in a couple of weeks we will sit down with family and friends and observe Thanksgiving Day, a time to give thanks for all good that has come our way.

Like many of you, my wife and I will participate in the Thanksgiving Bazaar at St. Boniface Gymnasium. We will work, then we will join our friends for dinner there, enjoying many of the same foods that have been served for more than 80 years.

Afterwards, many will unite with other family members for fellowship and food, if they’re still hungry.

I recently received a list of things not to say to family and friends around the dinner table or in the family room. Some are amusing, some actually make sense. All are worth pondering for a moment or two. I’m sure some of our subscribers could add a thing or two to this list. Here they are:

With a divisive election, potential for bottled up emotions turning into heated discussions lurks at every holiday table. Politics can be conflict-ridden but even good intentioned mother-in-laws often produce conversation messes that are hard to clean up!  Thanksgiving can mean the ideal family get together or a day of awkward moments, uncomfortable silences and eruptions of family feuds. Here are Debra Fine’s Top 10 Conversation Landmines (from her book, “The Fine Art of Small Talk How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills – and Leave a Positive Impression!,” published by Hyperion):

1. “What’s the name of that woman who came in second on American Idol last season?” Uncle Ted asks. Suddenly, the Blackberrys fly out, and the conversation grinds to a clumsy halt while your cousin Googles the answer. Say hello to the new conversation killer: smartphones. Avoid technology at the dinner table (yes, you can wait to learn!).

2.  “Were your twins natural?” or “Do you plan on breastfeeding?” Only at Octo-mom’s Thanksgiving table would these topics be up for discussion.

3. “I knew your candidate did not stand a chance, what do you have to say for yourself now?” Stop gloating, there are plenty of people eating turkey after the election, no need to rub it in. No weaving in witches or tea bags either. We are all in this together. Get out of these heated conversations by offering: “I guess we just do not see eye to eye” and change the topic!

4. “Are you two ever going to get married?” Most of us mothers (I am guilty as charged!) along with the rest of the planet presume that long time dating results in marriage. It ain’t necessarily so! As life’s journey progresses, “When are you two going to make me a grandmother?” is enticing. Back off! If they wanted you to know their intimate intentions, they would be sure to send you a memo.

5. “No, thanks. I gave up drinking after I saw the toll it took on you.” This is meant to deliberately point a finger. If you must address someone’s over indulgence, do it in private! And making someone feel bad about him- or herself does not typically motivate better behavior.

6. “Cool Whip is interesting. Did you ever think of serving the real stuff instead?” Who asked for your opinion? This is the “advisor” at his/her worst. Don’t offer advice unless solicited. That includes telling the upcoming college graduate how to go about job hunting or offering unwelcome tips on how to get through child birth.

7. “Aren’t you full yet?” or “Why aren’t you eating anything?” Leave us alone about what we eat or don’t eat and worry about what you put in your own mouth. Just because eating at the holiday dinner table is a marathon of gorging for some, for others it may be an Olympic feat of discipline. Also, just because you slaved over the pumpkin pie or prepared grandma’s traditional stuffing does not mean we are required to consume it. Eating is a personal decision!

8.  “You were too good for her.” This is letting your son know that he has really bad taste. And what will you do, mom, if they patch up their relationship and get back together? Instead offer how sure you are that because he is such a prize he will find exactly what he wants.

9. “I see you still can’t be bothered with ironing a shirt.” Leave her alone. Her priorities are not the same as yours. As mom used to say…if you cannot find something good to say, don’t say anything at all.

10. “Did you cook this yourself, or did you just thaw it out?” You may be asking because you sincerely wish to know how you can create this dish yourself, but you are putting the host/hostess on the spot. Instead ask for the recipe after the meal. If it was not homemade he or she either will let you know, or will perhaps be coy and say that the recipe is a family tradition that is not shared outside the family!

Debra Fine is the author of “The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep it Going, Build Rapport and Leave a Positive Impression” (Hyperion Books). Visit her online at www.DebraFine.com


On Saturday I had the opportunity to again sit and enjoy another Husker victory in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

It marked the last time in the foreseeable future the Huskers and Missouri Tigers will play football as Big Red is headed off to the Big 10 next season.

As many of you watched the game on television, what you may not have seen in the game’s final minutes was the mass exodus of Missouri fans from the stadium. With six minutes left in the game, many of the Missouri fans in the southwest corner of the stadium got up and walked out. The game was far from over. Had the Tigers been able to force a punt, they would have had an opportunity for a miracle finish. But, their fans didn’t see that happening so they got up and left.

You never leave a game before the outcome of the game is decided, whether it be football, basketball or any other competitive sport.

As much as I love to see the Huskers beat the likes of Missouri, Colorado and other teams in the Big 12, I’m going to miss not seeing the Tigers every year. The same goes for other members of the Big 12 North.

Next year we’re headed to a new beginning in the Big 10. New teams and new challenges await, but old friends/foes won’t soon be forgotten.