Performance Communication , Practical Communication

9 Conversations You Should Never Start at Family Holiday Gatherings

9 Conversations You Should Never Start at Family Holiday Gatherings

This week, I’m combining my regular “Monday Motivation for Performance Communicators,” with my blog because with Thanksgiving just a few days away, we’re officially starting the holiday season- including the stress of family gatherings.

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, Thanksgiving dinner and other 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 nine conversations you should never start (or allow yourself to get involved in) at a holiday gathering:

9 conversations you shouldn't start at holiday gatherings1. 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 comparisons of 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 that you know will cause shock or controversy. Save your divorce announcement or the fact that one of your kids failed out of college for after the New Year.

4. Bragging about accomplishments; either yours or your children’s. Save them for the annual Christmas Letter. Okay, I’m kidding, I can’t stand Christmas letters that brag. Just save it.

5. Questioning a family member’s 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. Unless someone has ASKED you to tell them to, do as my husband, LeRoy always advises, “Step away from the buffet,” focus on your own plate.

6. Revealing family secrets, even if they’re your own. What does a little “liquid courage,” plus a long-held secret, plus a captive audience equal?   DISASTER. As with #3 above, save it until after the New Year if it’s your secret. If it’s someone else’s, honor your commitment to keeping their information private.

7. Rehashing old arguments, wrongs, or hurts. Holidays are the times for joy and giving thanks, not for grudges and old wounds. Focus on peacekeeping, not war-making.

8. 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 that the brat isn’t yours.

9. Any conversation you’re thinking of starting that requires sarcasm to make your point. There’s no room for sarcasm in the communication tool box of anyone who wants to become part of my  “Performance Communicator” team. 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 that friend or relative.

And finally, a bonus topic to avoid #10- Politics! The election is over and there’s no point re-hashing the past. We all need to look forward. To use a really bad cliche – “Let’s remember the reason for the season,” and be thankful, rejoice, and look forward to a great 2017!


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


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Comments (2)

  1. Beverly Brooks
    14:43 pm

    I can think of one more………most likely falls under category #1…….politics. We may have heard of the nightmare stories of people “unfriending” others on Facebook, Instagram, et al. How horrible that something like political views can cause friendships to dissolve and family to be divide. Pick a different topic. How ’bout those Yankees?!

    1. 14:52 pm

      So funny you posted this- because I was JUST logging in to add a bonus #10- politics. The election is over. Let’s move forward!

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