3 Reasons Why People Dread Family Holiday Gatherings

Why do some people dread family holiday gatherings? 

This week many of us will be gathering with family and friends. Who doesn’t look forward to that! Unfortunately, a lot of people.

Could be it our outlook or expectations? Lack of tolerance for differences of opinions? Or, have we gotten used to doing things our one way the past two years?

The 3 most common reasons people have for the lack of enthusiasm or even dread when it comes to family holiday gatherings are: 1) Opposing views. 2) Nosy questions. 3) One-sided conversations. Let’s take one at a time.

1. Opposing views: If you could, would you choose to surround yourself with people who think and believe exactly as you do? I wouldn’t. Not only would I find it boring and almost impossible, but I would lose out on potentially great relationships because of a couple of differences of opinions.

Q: I have an aunt who believes in “X”. I can’t look at her in the face knowing she believes this!

A: Does she look at you in the face knowing you believe “O”?

Simple solution: Politely decline to talk about it. “Aunt Athena, let’s not talk about that. Tell me about your new car.” Or, share something positive and fun about your life, vacation, new shoes, etc…

Naturally, if Aunt Athena gets pushy, and changing the subject isn’t effective, politely think of a reason to excuse yourself.

2. Nosy questions: In today’s share-it-all world, people can forget that some topics are off limits, or none of their business. There is always a tactful way to respond, without giving them the information they seek.

Nosy or sincere; how do you tell the difference?

– If they get right to the question without a “Hello how’ve ya been.” = Nosy

– If they start it with, “Is it true that you…?” = Nosy

Sampling of nosy questions: 

Q: “When do you plan on getting pregnant? You’re not getting any younger.”

A. a) “None of us are. Luckily, I still have time ahead of me.” (A little snarky)  b) “If and when I do, I’ll send you an invitation to the baby shower.”

Q: “Still a vegetarian? When are you going to start eating like a normal person?”

A:  a) “If and when my doctor advises me.”   b) “I’m glad to know that you’re still enjoying your way of eating, bon appétit.”

Q: “I hear you bought a house. Must be nice. How much do they pay you?”

A:  a)  “Yes, we’re very happy and grateful that my career affords us to do so.”  b) “Like many people, we worked hard, and it has paid off.” (Excuse yourself.)

3. One-sided conversations: This is when you are cornered by someone who goes off on a rant about whatever. It could be about their views on politics, or the details of their last trip to the tire store. Here are a few get-away strategies:

  When they take breath, immediately and firmly say, “Excuse, but I’ve got to check on my partner/child.

“I’m getting a little hungry/thirsty, excuse me.” (Walk away.)

“I want to visit with the others. You’re welcome to come along.” If they tag along, introduce them to new group, and either stay or walk away. They’ll have a fresh pair of ears to talk to.

Quirks are not one-sided. When others think of you, they may have their own reservations. If we believe that we are always right, and our way is the only way of seeing things, getting along with others will be more challenging.

When did it become so important to prove how right we are, or how wrong they are?

When did we stop listening and accepting a differing viewpoint?

By the way, acceptance does not equal agreement. It merely shows respect. The same respect we want from others. #etiquette #familygatherings #relationshipadvice Click To Tweet

When did we stop using humor to lovingly rib each other, ending it all with a handshake or hug, wishing each other well?

I was fortunate to grow up with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and family friends. Our family gathering included tons of food, music, dancing, laughter, and a bit of kidding. All done respectfully.

Interesting article for Yahoo: Seventy Percent of Millennials Would “Uninvite” Someone From the Family Holiday Celebration if Possible, According to JustAnswer Survey

Final thoughts: We can choose our attitude about every encounter. You now have a few tips and suggestions on how to politely and tactfully influence a situation. Don’t fall into the “who’s right” trap. Choose civility.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Etiquette Expert, Author, Media Source  | Actor

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