Surviving Awkward Holiday Dinners!

The turkeys are tail up in the freezer section of your grocery store and nothing indicates the coming Holiday Season like the incessant planning calls and texts from members of your extended family- Get ready to have some awkward group dinners!

Holiday dinners and get-togethers are primed for irritation, bloating and remarks you wish you could take back. This guide will teach you how to come prepared, guide your conversations like the savvy sister you are and avoid the regret of eating too many chips and dip.

Turkey B&W


4 Steps for Navigating Awkward Holiday Get-Togethers:

1. Eat before you go. We watch our weight and shop in the organic section of the grocery store all year-round until T-Day. Then it all goes out the window and our plates become filled with snicker-fluff and mashed potatoes. (Yum!) I am not saying you need to turn away your mother’s stuffing and gravy, but eating some healthy treats before you go will help you enter with the right attitude. Think of the difference between a starving beast coming upon a buffet versus a satisfied slender sister full on carrots and almonds perusing the table for items that really strike her fancy. A tablespoon of peanut butter can make a ton of difference before you enter the battleground.

Apple Sandwich

Another tip on food and beverages- watch your alcohol consumption. Not only do most cocktails at parties contain a basket-full of sugar, but you will feel better the next day if you balance your drinks with a glass of water. Think of it like a nursery rhyme: wine, water, wine, water, weely good time.

Holiday Cheer


2. Turning the judgmental convo 180 degrees. Do you have an aunt or cousin that loves to ask about your non-impressive job or why you are not married yet? Awesome. Welcome to the table, everyone. This is something I am all-too familiar with yet barely even think about anymore because of my magic trick- turn the conversation around to them. It is really easy; think of it like this:

Perfect cousin with hot husband: “Soooo (fry voice), when are you and Brad going to get engaged?”

You: “Thanks for asking about Brad! He and I are planning a romantic cruise for next month and then I am going to visit your sister in California right after. It is going to be a super busy travel month for both us- but it will also be so much fun. What kind of things are you and Allen doing this winter to get out and have some adventures?”

She: “Yeah, we cannot afford to take any trips because our wedding set us back more than what we both make in a year.”

You: “Oh wow. That IS tough. What can I do to help you have fun this winter? I don’t want you to waste your vacation days without something to look forward to.”

Holiday Conversation


3. Make them feel fuzzy. One of the best ways to leave a good impression on your family is to show you care. In the last example I showed you how to turn the convo on the other person to avoid awkwardness and anger but don’t forget that focusing on others makes them (and you) feel good! It is human nature to want to share about ourselves and be reinforced for it- instigate this process in a creative way! Don’t ask things like, “How’s it going?” or “What’s new?” since the possibilities are far too vast that people tend to not really say anything of substance. Instead, ask a directed question that shows you have a genuine interest in learning about that person’s life, like: “Last time we spoke you told me you were looking into new positions at your company; where are you at with that process?” or “I know how much you love holidays with your kids; what fun things are you planning to do to celebrate?” If you just really do not know much about the person you are stuck next to at the table, try conversation starters like, “I just saw Cabin in the Woods- super scary but A-MAZING, have you rented or gone to any good movies lately?” or “You know, I barely know anything about what it was like to grow up with my Mom; what kind of a kid was she?”

4. Smooth Departure. No one likes to linger on long enough for the party to pass the fun zone, and venture on into watching the clock tick as if you were back in high school. The hostess does not want you to either, so make the best of the situation by staying just as long as you really want to. When you feel your internal timer has dinged, consider asking if you can help with cleaning up/related chores and let your family know it is time to go. Leave with, “Hey there, I had such a great time and I would love to help you clean the dishes before I leave” or “Before I head out I must help you with something around the house to pay you back for such a delicious dinner; can I take the trash out or clean up the table?” Taking a moment to show you care in these ways will allow your family to look passed your late arrival, short skirt, nonexistent husband, D in Anatomy and swift departure.

With these tips your family will watch you walk out the door thinking, “Dang, that girl really has got it together” while you go home to watch the Real Housewives of some strange city and eat hummus and pita with your pajamas on. My hope is that you are able to enter into the holiday season with confidence that you will make memories that give you pride in your family and fuzziness in your stomach- take charge of the things that make you uncomfortable and OWN it!

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