Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.
Holiday gatherings give families the chance to bond over delicious food, shared experiences and fond memories. However, nothing can ruin the holidays faster than a fresh argument between family members with differing political or religious views.
You may ask your sibling to avoid talking politics with “that uncle,” or try to seat cousins who bicker over everything on opposite sides of the table. But divergent points of view aren’t the only thing to worry about at holiday parties. Family gatherings almost always spawn potentially uncomfortable conversations about what’s going on in your life, such as describing your job to your great-aunt, recounting a painful breakup to your cousin, or explaining why you haven’t called your grandparents lately.
If you’re worried about the awkward conversations that might come up with family over the holidays, follow these tips to make it through every gathering intact:
Do some research to see what your family has been up to.
One of the hardest parts about seeing extended family you don’t see often is knowing what topics to avoid and what’s fair game. Scroll through their social media profiles and look up their public records for some background research before the family gathering. Small talk with your distant cousin will be easier if you know to ask about the new job she listed on her LinkedIn. Conversely, you’ll know not to ask your quiet, shy aunt where her husband is if you spot a divorce case in her public records.
Change the subject.
Changing the subject naturally and smoothly is a conversational art. One of the best ways to change the topic of conversation quickly is by asking your relatives questions about themselves. You can also deflect an uncomfortable, inopportune question by giving a brief, vague answer before bringing up a subject you both mutually enjoy or agree on. If you’re worried about spending time with a relative you disagree with, ask others to join the conversation so you’re not alone.
Embrace any silent moments.
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 OK with the silence and use it to plan something intelligent to say. Many awkward moments happen when we feel the need to blurt out something, only to realize a moment later that it was the wrong thing to say.
Realize that you probably can’t change anyone’s opinion.
No matter how riled up your politically-inclined relative might make you, trying to change someone’s opinion – especially a family member – is typically a wasted effort that will only result in headaches and hurt feelings. People don’t change their minds over arguments. Attempting to force your point of view on someone will only get both of you more defensive of your opinions. Stick to neutral topics and try to diffuse a heated conversation with humor or a light-hearted comment. Your family will thank you for it!