The holiday season is a double edged sword – family time, food, alcohol. And while it is usually fun, relaxing, and stress free, we run the risk of being put in awkward situations if certain topics come up for discussion around a dinner table or in casual conversation (especially in our current political climate). Emotions run high as we reflect on a what has transpired over the last xxx (you fill in the number of days since you last met as a familial unit – for our annual Thanksgiving, it’s 365 days with my group of amazing people).
In being a tightknit group, you’re close enough to ask the questions that should not be asked, tell the stories that should never be repeated, share the pictures that should never see the light of day, and cross the lines that should never be crossed – because you’re family and it all seems in bounds within this group. Truth be told, some of these questions might offend or make some uncomfortable. We’re not sure always sure what someone’s stance is – unless they’re openly posting it on their social media channels.
With these thoughts in mind, if you find yourself in a difficult situation during this holiday season, either on the asking or receiving end (trust that I’ve stood in both sets of shoes — you can ask an innocent question that ends up heading down an awkward road), you want to be prepared to handle yourself appropriately. There are few things worse than being unprepared on how to exit a conversation gracefully, especially when it involves individuals you’ll most likely see multiple times over the next 30 days. The goal is to find the best way out without offending anyone and doing more damage to your (emotional) wellbeing.
It’s awkward for everyone when people ask why you’re still single (or counteract that – why you still have a significant other they disapprove of) or when you plan to have children – so perhaps the goal is how to find a way out of the conversation that does not hurt anyone involved… mainly, you.
Being confident in your choices is sexy – own it. If you’re single because you want to be, give your family a brief glimpse into your mindset as to why, and then politely end the conversation. Something along the lines of, “I’m waiting for someone who understands the intricacies of x, y, and z.” Aforementioned intricacies are also why you and someone your family might not understand being together are still together – keep in mind you are an adult and these are your choices, not theirs. Own it and keep going.
On the children front – what you and your significant other choose to do is no one else’s business – if someone asks, first, try to laugh it off. If that does not work, and the individual questioning continues to push the subject, just let them know it’s important to you and your partner, and the two of you only – this is not a holiday discussion topic. If the individuals asking do not take the hint after this, you have my permission to be less polite.
Stories that involve far too much information will happen – you mean you didn’t want to know ALL about that medical procedure that seems far too advanced for someone to have had last week and be walking around now? Me either! Welcome to Thanksgiving dinner.
Learn how to be supportive in your response, but get out of the conversation quickly so you are not stuck and become inattentive. Stay sincere in your responses (if you begin to feign interest, have someone tap you out) and work the room early, so you have covered all your bases, and you’ve heard all the gory stories you will hear throughout the evening early on (fingers crossed).
Want some brownie points (or just to be a good human)? Remember to follow-up on how people are feeling in the near future – this is important (and easy), and shows that you care! Do not miss this heartfelt step!
We’ve all got at least one family member who brings about their own drama, sitting off to the side in a crowded room, drawing attention to themselves, making things a bigger deal than they need to be. If you can acknowledge but avoid this family member (only while they’re being dramatic) that would be in your best interest.
Depending upon what he or she is reacting to, respond accordingly and keep going – you’ve got a long day ahead of you, help as much as you can, but do not fuel the fire. Adding to the drama or playing a part will only make it worse. Keep this in mind in the event they try to pull you in. Misery loves company.
Holidays are built around overindulgence, both food and alcohol; be on the lookout for the family member who may have had a bit too much to drink and wants to share their opinion – it may not be friendly. If you’re put in an uncompromising situation based on someone’s intoxication, decide the best plan of action – do you have a family member you can turn to to help? Someone who knows them better and they may listen to?
Starting a verbal altercation at a family dinner does not solve anything. Keep this in mind and keep your cool. Your family (and karma) will thank you long term… no matter how much the individual deserves it.
The Out of Body Experience
Sometimes you’ll just have an interaction with someone that is unlike one you’ve ever had before – it may be weird, hostile, or just odd – either way, it’s different from years past. Just roll with it. This person is more than likely just having an off day, and really, who are you to judge? You have off days. Try to get out of the situation before you say or do anything that you cannot come back from, and just try to have fun with it. We’re all a little weird, shrug it off.
All too often we feel as if we have to justify ourselves or our choices to our family, and holidays are no different – in all reality we do not. We are our own person, and we should have the confidence to be that person at all times. Be yourself at every family holiday. Our family (or friends who are family) will love us no matter who we are, and invite us back – that’s how it works. Just remember to be responsible with feelings and actions. You do not want to be the one who causes emotional discomfort or anger.