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How to Manage Uncomfortable Conversations at the Dinner Table During the Holidays

Family at dinner table.
Image via Wix

The Holidays are the perfect time to visit family and friends and partake in Holiday festivities, including gathering together to share a delicious meal at the dinner table. While you may wish the focus will stay on the food, the weather, some other generic topic or just enjoying each other’s company, it never fails that somebody across from the dinner table will bring up an uncomfortable topic or discussion. Those annoying questions from relatives may be coming from a good place of wanting to connect with you, curiosity or just a genuine interest in your well-being, but that doesn't mean they are appropriate for the dinner table or you are obligated to participate.

For women, in particular, those dinner table topics can range from relationship status (e.g. are you dating; who are you dating; when can we meet him or her; when are you getting engaged or married etc.), career choices (e.g. when are you getting a real job; what are you doing for work these days; I know it’s your passion, but are you able to make a decent living doing that), and last but not least the infamous questions about your womb (e.g. biological clock is ticking, when are you having kids; Are you trying or just focusing on your career right now; How long have you guys been married now; Have you tried XYZ; I heard XYZ works). If you already have a child, the questions may transition to, when are you having the next one, the boy or the girl? You need to give your husband a boy to carry on the family name. Still, struggling to lose the baby weight I see. And don’t get me started on the folks that will start quoting biblical verses, and say things like: "I am praying for you — that the Lord will bless your womb and you will be fruitful and multiply." I have nothing against prayers by the way, but only suggesting that maybe this should be something discussed privately. Also, questions about someone’s appearance, whether it be acne, weight gain or loss are never appropriate at the dinner table.

I don’t know if it’s boredom, curiosity, the alcohol or Haitian kremas talking or just folks being straight up nosy, but people just love asking personal questions at the dinner table and providing unsolicited advice when no one asked. Although maybe well intentioned, people often don’t realize how rude, offensive and/or inappropriate their remarks and interrogations can be. You just never know what someone is dealing with personally and how triggering your insensitive comments or questions might be.

It can seem like there’s no way around those uncomfortable dinner table conversations unless you stay cooped-up at home alone and avoiding people altogether, but that’s probably not the healthiest option. You can however be prepared and plan ahead for how you will handle and deal with those uncomfortable situations and maintain your wellness and peace. Below, I am sharing some tips:

  1. Try to re-direct the conversation to a different topic, if possible. Hopefully, your nosy aunt, grandma and cousin will get the hint and move on to the next subject.

  2. Excuse yourself to the restroom or just step out for some fresh air and breathe.

  3. Answer the when questions with the phrase “next year, God willing,” without elaborating further.

  4. Give short yes or no answers since it can feel like you are being cross-examined. You can set boundaries for yourself and don’t have to feel obligated to share details that you are not comfortable sharing.

  5. Lastly, you can just boldly say no I am not comfortable answering that or I would prefer not to discuss this right this moment. Remember, the word “NO" is a complete sentence and can be a powerful form of self-care. Enjoy the Holidays and know that everything that is meant for you, will be yours in due time and season!


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