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.com (https://