Even though it’s typical for the holiday season to include small-talk conversations with loved ones whom we only see once yearly, it’s still surprising when we stumble into a convo and don’t know how to navigate it.
On one hand, some of your extended family members have known you for longer than you can remember. On the other hand, they don’t know the details of your life, and they’re probably just as clumsily trying to figure out how to relate to you. And that’s when they ask…
“So, are you dating anyone?”
And its familiar counterpart for married people: “When are you planning to have kids?”
And then, of course, there’s the question that the new S.O. of a relative might ask: “What do you do?”
Yet, in all the holiday rush, it’s easy to forget to prepare responses to these obvious questions that you’re sure to be asked each year.
Before you respond sarcastically or get too hurt about it, remember that your family members are probably just curious about your life. Their lives probably look vastly different than yours — depending on their age, if they’re retired, or what they’ve experienced in 2020. Also, their lives at your age probably looked vastly different than yours. Your parents grew up before the internet, Instagram, and dating apps. The median age of marriage 40 years ago was several years younger than it is today. And women’s careers weren’t valued as much as they are today. So sometimes, they’re fumbling around trying to say, “I’d like to know more about your life.”
Luckily, I think there’s a learning opportunity for you here. You can answer any unwanted questions in a way that is gracious and honors the person asking as much as it honors you, the one under the spotlight. You can seize the opportunity to grow your conversation skills. You can cleverly teach what type of questions you want to be asked in the future, based on how you respond.
With that in mind, here are some back-pocket responses to redirect the conversation in your favor.
It’s a solid response for the straight-talking woman who also knows how to defuse a bomb of follow-up questions before they start. Maybe you are dating one special person, but you’re not ready to introduce the idea until you figure out if it’s a long-term thing. Fair enough.
This is a great segue (it’s not a “Segway”, btw…) to any conversation you actually do want to start. You can talk about your career, your recent travels, or the friendships you have. Drop this response and pivot!
Sometimes you’ll be asked that question with an intense gaze and eager ears. It’s best to keep things light-hearted, and comedy will do just the trick. Bonus points if you’re NOT thinking of getting a dog, but can hold the joke without laughing.
Another comic response. Bonus points if you actually hand out your card. Just don’t be surprised if your elderly relative passes it along to someone you don’t want to date…
Part joke, part honesty, fully funny!
Whatever unwanted conversations you wind up in year-after-year, just be sure to prep a response that helps you navigate it toward the convos you do want to have with your family members. Come prepared, and you can steer your loved ones toward a positive, loving talk that helps them accomplish their goal of getting to know you better. And THAT is how you spread the spirit of holiday cheer.
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