Navigating Uncomfortable Conversations at the Holiday Dinner Table!!

Navigating Uncomfortable Conversations at the Holiday Dinner Table
By Justin Lavelle

Oh the holidays! We may love our family and enjoy seeing them, but we may also have very differing perspectives on the world. Family gatherings seem to be a catalyst for uncomfortable conversations with family members whether it be about politics, religion or just having to update the entire family on your life. After a challenging political season and vastly differing views on certain topics, some may consider sitting out the holidays all together. Although the holidays are a time to be grateful for the people you’re bonded with for life, it can sometimes be difficult. The holidays bring together a lot of opinions and personalities which pave the way for awkward moments. Fortunately, we have a few tips to help you survive the uncomfortable conversations you may be about to have with family:

7 Tips to Help You Handle Uncomfortable Conversations this Holiday:

  • Ask the Host for a Debate Free Zone. Whether you’re the host of the family gathering or someone else, ask that “hot” topics not be discussed during the gathering. This could pertain to politics, religion or known differences in opinion. Family will be more likely to come and with a good attitude if they know controversial topics will be avoided.
  • Realize You Probably Can’t Change Opinions of Others. You can avoid arguments by realizing something you’ve probably figured out in life on your own already—trying to change someone’s opinion (especially an older family member)—is just about useless. People don’t change their mind by arguing with them. Attempting to change your uncle’s mind will only get you both more defensive of your opinions.
  • Be Ok With Silence. Maybe the conversation is uncomfortable because you have nothing in common with a relative. If this happens, don’t try to say something for the sake of talking. Be okay with the silence and use it to plan something intelligent to say. Too many awkward moments happen when we feel the need to blurt out something, to realize a moment later we just stuck our foot in our mouth.
  • Change the Subject. Sometimes tricky, sometimes smooth, changing the subject is almost a conversational art. You can deflect an uncomfortable question by responding vaguely or look at others around you to join in so you’re not alone handling a response. Don’t be afraid to mention something random either. Like you just remembered something cool you wanted to share. You’d just need to think of something on the spot.
  • Plan Indoor Activities. Where there’s entertainment, there’s little time for debate. Keep the party going by planning activities for everyone to enjoy. Bring out the board games, plug in the karaoke machine, plan a craft table, and have family bring instruments if they play one and get a sing-a-long going. Who doesn’t love a good holiday movie? Play a good movie family can watch together like Miracle on 34th Street or Home Alone. This will insure the guests have sweet memories about the holiday vs. negative ones. 
  • Plan Outdoor Activities. Fresh Air and exercise are good for everyone’s mind, body and spirit. If the weather is cooperative, organize an outing for ice skating or snow shoeing. If there’s snow, gather the troops for a snowman building contest. At the very least, get those who are interested out for a quick walk or a drive to view holiday lights.   
  • Stay Confident. Our families are often our biggest critics. A family gathering may bring with it a smorgasbord of opinions and advice from aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins. And they all like to put in their two cents about what you should be doing in life. In situations like this, remain confident. They don’t live your life and although you’ll listen to their advice, you don’t have to follow it.

Don’t let the anticipation of uncomfortable conversations with family bring you down this holiday season. Keep your chin up, go with a good attitude and enjoy the holidays!


Credit for Justin Lavelle of PeopleLooker
Justin Lavelle is Communications Director at ( PeopleLooker is the fast, affordable, and easy way to access public records and search for people. Find out ages, marital status, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, criminal records, and more. PeopleLooker is a popular tool for online daters who use the app to check the background of potential dates.


  • Kate Sarsfield

    Four years on from my last post and now there’s just three of us (plus animals) for Christmas. I’m going to have to just bite my tongue, I think!

  • Darcy Koch

    Too often I have sat at the meal table where discussions came up which caused a little tension. It can be displeasing. I would try to steer the subject to another topic, but not always with success.

  • Anne C

    Great tips! I am okay with silence if th people around me are long time friends. Long silence can get a little awkward with acquaintances though. Lol

  • Sue E

    We have a huge immediate family. 24 of us = and that’s not counting others that we invited. Believe me, our conversations have and can get heated!
    Especially when talking about this year’s election!!
    Our time together is precious and I don’t want to spend it arguing!!
    This kids don’t need to hear or remember holidays like this!
    Especially over things we can’t change!!

  • Karen R

    Keep the food and games going. Have music playing in the background. We have a jar that if someone brings up politics they have to put a dollar in the jar. That is the biggest hot topic. The money in the jar goes to the Humane Society.

  • michele

    I think the best advice is to know when to be silent.. let things go….remember also that alcohol fuels conversations that can get out of hand.. mum is the word

  • Kristen

    I like the idea of getting everyone outside…we often do that at the holidays (not necessarily to change the conversation, but that could surely be a bonus!)

  • Natalie

    Luckily this year we had no bad conversations at the dinner table. However, the whole family was not together this year 🙂

  • Tamra Phelps

    Lol, in our family we pretty much know what subjects to avoid. Oddly, it’s probably not politics or religion. It’s more likely to be personal opinions about spouses or significant others of another family member, ha!

  • Judy Thomas

    I think if everyone stays away from the subject of donald trump this year we should be fine. It’s funny how a moron can start family wars 🙂

  • clojo9372

    I hate when there’s that awkward silence after there’s a disagreement between family members or friends. Everyone else wants to change the topic to lighten the mood, but the gathering gets tainted by the unpleasantness.

  • Janet W.

    Our family definitely has to steer away from any conversations about politics! We all know that is a big no-no since we highly disagree with each other!


    It’s always been just Mum, Dad, sister & self (+/- boyfriends) and later my niece as we’re the only ones living in Ireland so we’ve kind of got our own routine and know instinctively which subjects to avoid! It’s very different without Dad but it’s as if he’s still at the table which is nice.

  • Tamra Phelps

    Most of my family can have civil debates about politics or similar subjects. But there’s always one, right, lol? It’s definitely best to avoid the touchy topics.

  • clojo9372

    If you have a diverse family like I do, it might be best to stay away from all religious and political conversations all-together. Christmas should be a happy time, not a war-zone! 😉

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