While enjoying Christmas dinner with family or loved ones, it's always good advice to avoid hot button issues like politics and religion.

You may be an opinionated person or someone who likes to dish out the sarcasm but the dinner table is not the place to stir controversy. Author Debby Mayne says that after spending hours in the kitchen preparing the meal, your host won't appreciate any arguing.

We shouldn't come across as a know-it-all or sound too opinionated and remember that humor is good as long as it isn't too sarcastic.

In a popular Seinfeld episode, Jerry attends a relative's 50th anniversary dinner and tries to make a joke about hating anybody who had a pony when they were a child. That upset the elderly female guest-of-honor who just happened to own and cherish a pony while growing up. She storms out of the room in anger.

Family lore is important. In Seinfeld's case, the pony story began well with a conversation about some family history but crashed and burned when Jerry's zinger ended up offending the oldest member of the clan.

Here are some other timely reminders:

Ÿ Don't gossip about anyone. If someone makes a comment that seems insensitive, change the subject to avoid conflict.

Ÿ Don't be a braggart. It's fine to mention something brilliant you or your child did as long as you give others an opportunity to do the same.

Ÿ Avoid talk of medical conditions and health problems, particularly if they involve body fluids.

Ÿ Don't ask someone's age or discuss the act of getting older.

If you're the aggressive type who likes to dominate conversation, it might be wise to spend more time listening than talking. Guests will turn you off if they can't join in conversation because you can't keep your mouth shut.

By Jim Zbick

editor@tnonline.com