Whether you’re attending an in-person gathering or virtually, it takes only one comment about COVID restrictions or politics to turn a cordial gathering into a combat zone.

If you’re a guest, you obviously can’t impose what is acceptable and what is not. But you can help encourage a neutral and enjoyable conversation. For example,

• If a guest brings up the elections results: “I don’t think we’ll resolve it here. Let the politicians work this one out.” Or, “I think we can all use a day free from controversy. More stuffing?”

• If someone makes an opposing remark that triggers you: If it isn’t directed at you, ignore it. If it is, take a breath, and calmly respond, “It’s best we drop this topic.” If someone insists, move away from them, change the subject, or use that old cliché, “This isn’t the time or place…”

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Hosting? Here are 3 tips to help guide and deflect potentially controversial topics:

1. Consider setting guidelines: While sending out a list of rules to your guests doesn’t seem welcoming or gracious, this year might be an exception. You can say something like:

In order to make the most of this gathering, I suggest we refrain from bringing up hot-topics like, politics, causes, gun-control, religion…  Include any other topics that are often brought up in your circle of family and friends. Imposing rules and guidelines can be awkward. You’ll have to determine whether it’s worth saying, or if it’ll just incite more controversy.

2. Have an agenda. Does this sound too orchestrated? Perhaps. However, if you have a blended-thinking group attending, it might be wise to have a couple of go-to conversation-changing ideas. In fact, you might send out these ideas in advance. This idea depends on the number of guests and room set up.

• Share a story about your childhood that not many people know about.

• Share an accomplishment.

• Share a feel-good interaction you had with a stranger.

• What is the first thing you’re going to do once the pandemic is over?

• Have a game-table or group games set up.

3. Have a ghost-host: Privately ask one of your dearest and closest guests to discreetly jump in if they see a conversation that’s about to turn ugly.

• They can change the subject.

• Disrupt the group by asking one or more of them to help open the wine or look at the new kitchen rug. Anything to break it up.

Virtually, it may be more difficult to control unpleasant situations. If someone gets too out of hand, the host should jump in with a reminder, or as a last resort, ask them to “leave” the gathering.

Related VideoKTLA5: Handling Political Conversations in the Workplace

Final thoughts: It is unfortunate that some of us are unable to conduct ourselves in a civil manner when conversing about a hot-topic. I have several theories as to why. One of them is that we are not willing to accept and/or respect anyone who would disagree with us.

My new book.

My new book on handling post-pandemic life. Available on Amazon

Etiquette Expert, Author, Media Source | Actor/Actríz

Imparting advice to businesses, private sessions, and the film industry. Available to hold virtual or in-person session to prepare individuals/groups for job interviews, dining out, improving communication techniques.

Film industry:  Fine-tune actors’ etiquette skills for roles. Bilingual (Spanish/Mexican). Certified COVID Compliance Officer.



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Books: “Don’t Burp in the Boardroom”, “Keep Your Distance!”

© 2021 Rosalinda Oropeza Randall