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November 9, 2022 6 Min Read

7 Tips For Awkward Family Conversations This Thanksgiving

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Picture this: you’ve just sat down at the Thanksgiving table. You’re bursting with joy ready to dig into your stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey (or tofurkey, if that’s your thing). You bring the fork to your mouth, preparing for the myriad of flavors. As you’re about to take a bite, your Aunt Judy looks at you from across the table and asks why you’re not married yet. Defeated, you place your utensil down and proceed to explain all the ways in which you are single (and happy to be!) to your nosy family member. 

Whether they’re nagging you about your relationship status, your job, or something else, we all have a relative (or relatives) like Aunt Judy. Thankfully, there’s a tactful way to deflect these awkward family conversations without ruining your relationships. Here, Marius Zaharia, Emotional and Relationship Coach, explains how to get out of even the cringiest of chats.

1. Ask for Their Opinion

People absolutely love to share their opinion. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have Twitter. Lean into this desire and straight up ask your family members what they think. This does not mean you need to listen or take any of their responses to heart — it’s just a really effective way to sidetrack them. Some lines to try:

  • “Hmm, good question. What do you think? I’d really appreciate your opinion.”
  • “So, what do you think I should do? Really? Wow, that’s so interesting, thank you so much.”
  • “I’d love your help on this, since I know you’ve been through the same thing.”

Before you know it, Grandpa Sam is on an hour-long tangent and you’re left to tune out and enjoy your potatoes in peace.

2. Answer Noncommittally 

You know what people also really love? When you agree with them. We’re not saying that you need to wave the white flag and appease your relatives, but an open-ended phrase can be a one-way ticket out of an uncomfortable conversation. Some lines to try:

  • “Maybe you’re right.” 
    • Note that this isn’t an admission of anything, the key word here is “maybe.”
  •  “Sure, why not?”
    • You’re not committing, you’re simply answering a question with a question.
  • “Might as well try it.”
    • But on the other hand, you might not.

3. Play Dumb

Sometimes, the best answer is the easiest one. If you’re feeling like you just don’t have the energy, this is an A plus strategy for the most relentless of relatives. While it may frustrate your opponent, it’ll keep you sane. Let’s walk through a sample of what this could look like:

  • “So, when are you two going to get married?”
  • “No idea.”
  • “You don’t know?”
  • “Nope.”
  • “Why not?”
  • “I don’t know, we just don’t.”
  • “Ok then, how’s your dog?”

As you can see, your cousin/uncle/brother-in-law will eventually tire out and leave it alone. Mission accomplished.

4. Pretend You Didn’t Hear Them

This is one of our favorite methods. Oftentimes, people don’t realize how intrusive they’re being until you make them repeat themselves. So, when your grandma asks if you’ve gained a little weight, simply respond with, “I’m sorry, what was that?” If she asks again, double-down and ask her to speak up. It’s likely that she’ll give up and move on or other people at the table will step in and scold her.

5. Respond in Agreement

This may seem counterintuitive, but hear us out. Simply agreeing with your family members is a great way to disarm and confuse them. It’s unexpected, disorienting, and shocking — the deflection trifecta. Something like, “Omg, great question. I’ve been wondering the exact same thing!,” should do the trick.

6. Thank Them and Change the Subject

This is another disarming technique to keep in your arsenal. When awkward family conversations arises, simply show your gratitude for their care. They’ll feel appreciated and will be too busy basking in your compliments to follow up. Then, change courses and direct the conversation to someone else. Try: “Wow, thank you for caring, that means so much to me. So, mom, how’s book club going?”

7. Go AWOL

Excuse yourself from the table and take a beat. Whether you go to the bathroom, walk the dog, plop face-down in the guest bedroom, or hide out in the basement, take a few breaths and center yourself. By the time you’ve returned, chances are that the conversation has already changed. Say it with us: phew. 

Whatever method you choose, prepare and rehearse in advance. Think about some of the dreaded questions they’ve asked you in the past and put together some one-liner responses.  Then, find a friend to roleplay your pesky relative until you feel confident enough to face a dozen of them. And that — ladies and gentleman — is how it’s done. 

Interested in chatting with Marius or another relationship coach? 


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