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Conversation Starters 

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Not sure how to handle this year's family gatherings in a divided nation? Here's what to talk about, besides the elephant—and the donkey—in the room.

Getting the extended family together often has bumps in the road. Make one offhand comment about the hue of someone's orange self-tanning lotion and you may just find your head in a pan of (also orange) pumpkin pie.

While we might not be able to avoid our families (like many of us avoided going to the polls this November), we can try to get along. Here are some safe topics.

Bring Conversation Starters

Bring a list of "starter" topics that you can use when you need them, says Jane Hiatt, a relationship coach, hypnotherapist and Unity minister in Bend. "Come armed with topics and then, if you know your family is argumentative, get an agreement on the front end that 'we're not going to spend this holiday arguing,'" Hiatt advises.

Recipes

Everyone loves talking about how they sourced their ingredients from local farms and gleaned the recipe from their Aunt Martha. Just don't start a battle by outing them for actually getting the recipe from Food.com.

Your Kids' Activities

The funny antics of kids and pets (either yours or ones seen on YouTube) are usually neutral territory. Hover around this safe zone as much as possible.

A Music Show Playing Later

This is a perfect preamble to the news you'll break later that you won't be sticking around to watch football, but will instead be going out. Talk up the band enough and your family might literally force you to go to the show for the good of humanity.

And when in doubt, follow the advice of "Saturday Night Live" from last year and just play an Adele song really loud. Everyone loves Adele.

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