Navigating Awkward Conversations at Holiday Dinners
“Have you been dating anyone?”
“Can you believe those idiots who voted for so-and-so?”
“What are you doing for work?”
“When are you going to have kids?”
“Did you see that your cousin did something I clearly think is awesome that you don’t do?”
Sound familiar? It’s that time of year again.
As families gather, people unloose their tongues. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for getting asked questions you don’t want to answer. For real, a recent study found that a third of us dread awkward conversations during holiday family gatherings.
If you count yourself in that group, we’ve got some tips to help you navigate what’s ahead.
Think through years past. It’s not a fun thought exercise, we know, but tackle it. Try to identify the questions you most commonly get asked.
Then, plan your answers. It could be a simple way to shut down the conversation, like, “I don’t have any plans to [insert thing here].” Or, “I haven’t even thought about it since you asked me last year.”
Or you can flip it. If someone asks why you’re not having kids, you could say, “How did you know you were 100% ready to have children?” Or if they ask why you’re not dating, ask, “How would you suggest I find a compatible partner?” Put the focus back on them and see how they like getting caught in the spotlight.
And never forget, you can simply be honest. “I don’t feel like talking about it,” might not be overly satisfying to the asker, but does that matter to you?
If you’re lucky, you might be able to avoid directly getting asked anything. Instead, some awkward family conversations arise because other people openly discuss a hot-button issue.
When your family members see the world differently, it can be tempting to chime in — especially if they’re being factually incorrect. But sticking your toe into those waters can mean getting carried away by the current. If you’re hoping for a peaceful holiday season, consider biting your tongue.
If someone says something that really bothers you, wait to address it. Talking with them about it one-on-one will likely yield much better results — and maybe even help them to change. If you call them out in front of others, they’re a lot more likely to get defensive.
Take care of yourself afterward
You might have a few events on your calendar that you’re particularly dreading. Try to protect at least a few hours in the day immediately afterward.
Make it a plan to take some you-time, no matter how it goes. If the event ends up being a smooth one, you can celebrate it. But if it goes poorly, you can use the time to self-soothe. That could mean getting into a workout to sweat it out, digging into some cookie dough and your favorite comfort show, or whatever you feel like you need.
This can be a stressful time of year for family dynamics. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself!