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A new website promises better Thanksgiving dinner conversations

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This year, you can add an insurrection, vaccination status and the nature of truth itself to the list of topics that could threaten to derail your Thanksgiving dinner. And since we're well into the day, maybe they already have. But if it's not too late and you're - I don't know - looking for an escape hatch from a wine-soaked political debate, David Orlic wants to help.

DAVID ORLIC: We created this game to help reduce Thanksgiving anxiety, or "Thanxiety," and make this holiday lovely.

CORNISH: Thanxiety.com is a project of a startup called Anyone. Orlic is its CEO. And the game is basically a conversation prompt generator.

ORLIC: So you can either swipe between them until you find a topic that you like or that you think would work around the table or you can shuffle and get a random topic.

CORNISH: Some of the prompts are lighter fare. For instance - what's your all-time favorite condiment? Or take two sitcom characters from different shows and match them to co-star in a brand-new show of your own creation. But some are deeper. Here's one of Orlic's favorites.

ORLIC: What's a lesson your parents taught you, either actively or by example, that sticks with you to this day? That question, you know, in itself can tell your whole life story. Like, the values that we're brought up with tend to stick with us. And it's a great way to understand where someone is coming from.

CORNISH: Full disclosure - some of the prompts do seem to flirt with those dreaded political topics. You might see, quote, "what do you think is the role or responsibility of billionaires in our society?" Mortality is also on the menu. For instance - what happens after we die? But Orlic says even fraught topics can yield productive conversations with the right approach.

ORLIC: Just that act, the act of asking something and listening rather than coming in full force and telling people how things are, I think produces a completely different result.

CORNISH: But if that still seems dicey, you could always retreat to that safest of topics - Tom Hanks.

ORLIC: What is your favorite Tom Hanks movie and why? I mean, is it "Castaway?" Is it "Forrest Gump?" Is it "Toy Story?" Is it "A League Of Their Own?" Resort to pop culture if all else fails.

CORNISH: Although, if your uncle answers "The Polar Express," it's OK to ask him to leave. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.