We dated the Zeros… so you don’t have to.

19
December

Talk This Way: Safe Holiday Topics & How To Avoid Awkward Conversations

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It’s that time of year.  The holidays have once again reared their ugly heads.  Chances are you’re preparing for some serious family time.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  We’ve already talked about how spending too much time in your childhood home can turn a perfectly sane adult into a full grown child, but what about spending time with the rest of your family?  The people that you may only see once or twice a year?

Let’s be real: the holidays are stressful.  You’re sleep deprived, stuffed with rich food and, likely, over-served in terms of alcohol (it can’t just be my family).  Tempers are short and tensions are high.  It can be a combination that leads to explosive fights and/ or confrontations that you weren’t ready to have.  Don’t panic!  This can be avoided and you don’t even have to stop drinking.  Just stick to safe topics of conversation.  The holiday gift exchange may not be the best time to discuss politics or religion.

Here are some helpful segues, in case you find yourself in a sticky situation:

“So, when are you getting married?”

Okay, so it’s not political or religious, but it’s a doozy of a question nonetheless.  You just want to enjoy your eggnog in peace and suddenly some well-meaning relative wants to know the state of your union.  Your best move?  “You’ll be the first to know!” Yeah, likely they won’t, but it’s a jokey way to get out of a topic that you’d rather poke sharp sticks in your eye than discuss.

“Can you believe the election?”

Unless you and the question asker are both on the same team politically and can celebrate or commiserate together, it is best to leave this one alone.  Politics can make people’s blood boil even in the best of circumstances.   Instead, answer, “Can you believe who won Survivor/Dancing with the Stars/X Factor/The Voice?”  Entertainment is usually a much safer topic than government.  Even if you aren’t a huge reality show fan, chances are you’re with someone who is.  Let them take it over while you relish in having avoided a conflict.

“[Relative that isn’t here] has gotten so fat! Been dumped! Flunked out!”

Yeesh.  Back away slowly.  Gossip spreads like wildfire among families.  It’s safe to assume that anything you say, be it positive or negative, is likely to find its way back to the family member that didn’t show for the holiday party.  So keep it upbeat.  Express your condolences and then quickly offer something positive about the person.  Then, immediately change the subject or excuse yourself to go help in the kitchen.  Even peeling potatoes is preferable to being labeled your family’s version of Benedict Arnold.

“I feel the exact opposite way that you do about gun control/gay marriage/abortion.”

Whatever you do, don’t argue.  If someone actually brings this up at a holiday party you are not going to change their mind.  Don’t even try.  Instead, pull a complete 180.  “Have you seen The Hobbit?” “Did you read 50 Shades of Grey?” “Do you watch Homeland?” “Oh, shoot, I think my hair’s on fire.”

“Let me show you pictures of my kids!”

Sorry, friend.  You’re stuck.  Just smile and talk about how cute they are.  It’ll all be over soon.

Good luck, dear readers.  I hope you have a delightful holiday season that is free of awkward conversations and massive hangovers.  Here’s to a great 2013!

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Elisabeth Fitzgerald

About the author: Elisabeth Fitzgerald

Elisabeth Fitzgerald is a Chicago born, Los Angeles based writer. In addition to writing fiction and non-fiction, she also works in the entertainment industry. When not holed up with a pen in her hand or a script at her side, she enjoys Tejano music, vintage clothing and tricking herself into exercising with yoga. Her dislikes catalog a number of prominent ZEROS.

Elisabeth has written 63 articles for us.

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