The holidays are supposed to be a time of joyous celebration, and 2021 is no different (even with the latest Covid surge rearing its ugly head). Reuniting with friends and family gives us plenty to look forward to, but what about the flip side of so much socializing and closeness? Is everything about the holiday season merry and bright? How do we navigate those pesky personal questions and awkward conversations we’d rather not get into?
If you are seeing family and friends this season, know that you’re not alone in dealing with situations like this. Questions like “so are you still single?”, “when are you going to have a baby?”, “when are you getting promoted?”, “when are we meeting your new boyfriend/girlfriend?”, “are you still not talking to your mother/father/sister/brother/etc?” can be so triggering. It’s also hard to feel equipped to handle them when you’re sitting at a dinner table with multiple pairs of eyeballs staring at you, waiting for you to answer.
I want to share a few social tips not only to help handle these conversations, but to provide a source for overall sanity during the holiday season, too. Interpret these social tips how you want and use them when you want. Think of them as your ammo in a secret holiday toolkit you have stashed away in your pocket!
Tip #1: Don’t take it personal.
Almost everything people say and do is a culmination of their opinions and experiences. It is a projection of their own thoughts, fears, and beliefs and has nothing to do with you. If someone makes a dumb joke at your expense, think of what fear or insecurity that person has to feel the need to make that joke. If someone pushes their agenda or timeline on you, think of what deep-rooted beliefs the person might have, and therefore what fears they might have towards anything that doesn’t live up to that belief. Please also remember that some people don’t know how to make basic conversation with others! They ask the same generic questions to everyone and simply don’t know what to say.
What you can do: Visualize the question or comment as a ball rolling off your back, bouncing on the ground, and disappearing under the couch. Even if you get frustrated (which is totally normal and human), don’t let it weigh on you for too long. Decide if it’s worth the confrontation or not (it’s usually not) and walk with the faith that it isn’t your problem. Because it’s really not.
Tip #2: Flip the script.
There’s a saying I love and it goes like this – “be kind, but take no sh*t.” Sometimes you have to flip the script on people, especially nosy ones. Responding to pushy questions with phrases like “why do you ask?” or “what would you do in that situation?” are great ways to deflect the focus off of you and back on to the person prying. It’s also pretty interesting to see how the people who ask so many questions are usually the most unlikely to answer the same questions about themselves. So pay attention to that, and don’t be surprised if you sense a little discomfort and push back!
What you can do: Respond with your “deflection question” honestly and be genuinely curious about the person’s answer. This will make you sound a lot less defensive, which will help with your strategy. You can also answer someone by simply saying, “I’d rather not talk about that right now. Can we switch the subject?” Bottom line, don’t be afraid to try this tactic. Prioritize setting boundaries over always feeling like you have to be an open book.
Tip #3: Establish an exit strategy.
I don’t mean you have to cause a scene and storm off in the middle of Christmas dinner in front of Grandma. But there are subtle safety exits from any social situation that we probably don’t tap into enough! Once again, prioritize your comfort & boundaries over always being kind. Your presence (or lack thereof) is a powerful tool. You are totally within your right to use it as you see fit around certain family members and/or friends.
What you can do: Offer to help with a chore that gets you out of the house. Suggest watching a movie where talking is kept to a minimum. Worst comes to worst, a simple “would you excuse me for a moment?” always does the trick.
This time of year can be complex for many and not always the happiest season of all. I hope these social tips for the holiday season guide you and help you feel supported in whatever situations you’re in over the next two weeks. Always remember that you don’t have to overshare or explain anything to anyone. Furthermore, nothing that anyone says or does should sway you from who you are, unless you’re actually seeking advice or looking to make a change. Do you, boo. Nothing exudes more confidence than that.