The holidays can be such an awkward time. When forced to mingle with family, friends, neighbors or coworkers, there is always an inappropriate or socially inept individual who knows just how to push your buttons. Despite your best efforts to avoid this kind of person, you will, like most people, invariably get trapped.
According to a Relationup December 2016 survey, here are the top 3 most uncomfortable questions people have reported hearing at holiday gatherings, with suggestions on how to handle the awkward moment.
- “When’s the baby due?” This is especially troubling when you are not pregnant and self conscience about your weight. If you are expecting, chances are, you’re thrilled to talk about the arrival of your precious little nugget to anyone who will listen. If you’re not expecting, you might remind them that food babies don’t have precise delivery dates. Be sure to wink and let them sit in their embarrassment. And then change the subject.
- “What did you get for Christmas?” Directed at anyone over the age of 12, this question is annoying and insensitive, especially to adults who don’t have anyone in their lives spoiling them with luxurious gifts. Well I asked Santa for a Ferrari and I didn’t get one so I guess I was on the naughty list. If sarcasm isn’t your style, you can turn this question around on them. Unless you really want to tell them about the aspirin and toe-nail clippers you found in your stocking, just offer a vague response about gift cards and ask, “What did you get?” as enthusiastically as they did.
- “Why are you still single?” This question stings because you ask yourself the very same question every night. You want to blurt out, “Oh, let me tell you about every date I’ve been on this past year and explain to you in minute detail why it didn’t work out with each one of them!” No, don’t do that. A simple “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” is perfectly fine. You might ask them if they have anyone to set you up with. Otherwise, it’s always a good move to ask them about themselves or their pet. People are dying to share stories about their cats and dogs. They will get their phone out faster than lightening to show you photos, proving just how amazing Fluffy is at giving you his paw.
When in doubt, “I don’t know” and “How interesting” are useful stock answers to fall back on. To avoid moments of awkward silence, shift the conversation to topics you are interested in such as work, sports or current events. If it’s hard to think of them in the moment, keep a mental list of go-to topics that you can easily call upon. While this is especially helpful for those who are shy or have social anxiety, anyone can benefit from feeling extra prepared. As a final note, don’t be afraid of silences, especially after someone has just been thoughtless. This gives them time to think about how inappropriate they were without your having to say anything at all.
Written by Carla Litto, M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy