Performance Communication , Practical Communication

7 topics to avoid if you want to dodge holiday dinner table drama this year

7 topics to avoid if you want to dodge holiday dinner table drama this year

I thought I’d get a jump-start on holiday-themed blogs this year so we can all be prepared for finding the joy in what can sometimes be a stressful season. To kick things off, let’s talk about holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving, which is just around the corner! Family holiday gatherings should be a time to reconnect, enjoy great food and drinks, and most of all, to celebrate the “reason for the season.” However, for many families, holiday gatherings somehow don’t turn out to be the idyllic events they hope for because:

  • expectations are high,
  • inhibitions are low from too much “holiday cheer”,
  • people see family gatherings as an opportunity to drop a bomb,
  • people strike at the opportunity to “get even” for slights and hurt feelings of the past  year,
  • and more.

To avoid starting a family feud this holiday season, here are seven conversations you should never start (or allow yourself to get involved in) at your upcoming holiday gatherings:

1. Any conversation that compares siblings, cousins, or grandchildren, and puts someone in a negative light. These conversations only serve to divide when your goal at the holidays should be to unite!

2. Negative comments about the host’s menu choices or anyone’s cooking technique. “Well when I make stuffing, I NEVER put celery in it.” You know what? Not only does no one care, but if your stuffing is so great, you should have offered to make it and bring it.

3. Major “bomb drop” announcements. What does a little “liquid courage,” plus a little-known fact, plus a captive audience equal?  DISASTER. Save your divorce announcement, arrest information, or the fact that you’re going to declare bankruptcy for another time. Additionally, just because the family is all together does not mean now is the appropriate time to reveal family secrets such as the fact that you’ve discovered via DNA testing that your Dad has a zero-percent chance of being your biological father. Big news that’s going to have a profound and possibly negative impact on the family shouldn’t become the focus of an event that was supposed to be about happiness, togetherness, and holiday cheer.

4. Questioning a family member’s personal habits. “You’re eating that? I thought you were on a diet?” You’re not the diet police, so don’t worry about what others are eating. Maybe they’ve worked out extra hard to earn those extra calories. The same goes for comments about peoples’ wardrobe choices, hairstyles, or anything else that could be hurtful.

5. Rehashing old arguments, wrongs, or hurts. Holidays are the times for joy and giving thanks, not for grudges and old wounds. Focus on keeping the peace, not re-starting battles. If you need to talk with someone about a past wrong, set up a time to talk to him or her privately and one-on-one.

6. Stepping in to “parent” a child who is not yours. Trust me, either your cousin knows her kid is a brat, or she’s so oblivious that she won’t believe you when you tell her that her kid is a brat. Either way, parent your own kids and be grateful the brat isn’t yours.

7. Any conversation you’re thinking of starting that requires sarcasm to make your point. There’s no room for sarcasm at the holiday dinner table. It serves no purpose other than to give you a moment’s satisfaction and take a piece out of the person you’re dishing it on. If you’ve got something to say, say it sincerely. If the holiday table isn’t the place for it, set up a time and place to have a one-on-one conversation with the person who needs to hear what you have to say.

For more tips on surviving family holiday gatherings, check out my past blog post, Five Communication Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving and Other Holiday Gatherings.

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