Christmas is two days away and if you’re celebrating with family, you’re probably anticipating seeing everyone and catching up with each other’s life. The pandemic has prevented many families from gathering and although some families still cannot meet up, for many this is the Christmas they have been dreaming of for over a year.
Not seeing each other for so long may make you feel like you’ve lost so much. You may want to get caught up fast. However, there are questions that are better left unasked at the dinner table. Close family members may ask questions out of honest curiosity and genuine care, but when they’re asked in front of others, it can be embarrassing and leave the recipient feeling attacked and/or like a failure. You want your loved ones to leave the holiday dinner with memories they can cherish until they see you next year so avoiding these questions below will help.
1. Have you lost or gained weight since I saw you? People have been under intense stress this year and weight gain/loss can be part of the way they deal with stress. This question should never be asked in public, and if your loved one wants to talk to you about their weight, they will bring it up on their own terms in private.
2. Why aren’t you married? This question is one of the most common, annoying questions to ask. It puts pressure on your loved one and makes them feel like they aren’t okay if they aren’t married. There is enough pressure on young people to get married. Don’t add more by asking this question.
3. Giving advice that is not asked for. You are not your loved one’s personal coach or dietitian. Giving them advice about how to manage their life is usually tuned out and a waste of breath. Their reaction will be to reveal less and less about their life. If you want your loved one to feel safe with you, practice listening and offer less advice.
4. What are your plans after completing college or a temporary job (or whatever stage of life they’re in)? Your loved one may be having financial struggles they don’t want to talk about. College is expensive and they may feel guilty for not taking a larger load of studies. Don’t ask them unless they bring it up. If you want to offer help then present your question to say, "How can I help you with your plans for education or a job?"
5. Don’t ask about embarrassing stories from your loved one’s past. In many families, they tease and laugh about stories from the past at the holiday table. But if the story embarrasses the person, it’s no longer something to bring up or share at the dinner table. When families say they’re joking or teasing at someone else’s expense, that’s emotional abuse and not a funny story.
What is said or talked about during holidays are remembered forever, because the words are coming from loved ones who mean the most to us. Be a family member who shows support and encouragement by listening and seeking to understand, and your loved ones will look forward to sharing holiday dinner with you.