The holidays are all about bringing people together over good food and great conversation. But if you’re like most families, you know a perfectly basted turkey is a lot easier to pull off than the easy banter around the dinner table.
Dysfunction is a normal part of the season. There’s always that one person who makes things awkward. It’s like they home in on any uncomfortable conversation, making sure to share their political views when no one asked. Eventually, you know from past experience they’ll move from politics to money with a hyper focus on your finances. They’ll ask about your student or personal loan situation, your credit score, or your retirement savings in front of everyone.
If you’d rather keep these things private, here are three foolproof ways to avoid the awkward money talk during Christmas dinner. They’ll help you navigate the conversation away from your finances, so you can eat your mashed potatoes in peace.
Handle Your Annoying Seatmate with Poise
Your chatty neighbor tramples through conversations, crushing personal feelings and the table’s good cheer without any second thoughts. They do this in part to incite a reaction out of others, even if it’s a negative one. They like it when people get a little hot under the collar. So they’ll grill their seatmates about Kavanaugh’s place on the Supreme Court or Nike’s new partnership with Colin Kaepernick. To them, no subject is taboo for turkey.
In a way, by letting them ruffle you enables their behaviour. It reinforces the idea that if they say something scandalous, they’ll get the reaction they want.
Before you let you temper boil over, remember: don’t rise to their level. Though it can be a challenge to keep your cool in the face of prying questions, it’s important you learn how to interact with your annoying seatmate with finesse. When they don’t get the reaction they were hoping for, they’ll move on to their next victim.
Change the Subject Politely but Directly
Just because this person asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to give them an answer. This is an important tip to remember for any group get-together. You don’t owe anyone an explanation if the subject makes you uncomfortable. But you do owe the rest of the table the courtesy of handling the conversation, so no one is made uncomfortable by the experience.
If you don’t want to share your credit score or the details of a payday loan from a company like MoneyKey, you do need to learn how to direct the conversation away from such topics.
- Try changing the subject first by saying your finances would bore everyone else around the table.
- Fill the silence by asking a neutral question to another family member. You probably aren’t the only one made uncomfortable by these questions, so they’ll only be happy to help you escape this awkward conversation.
- If these tricks fail, there’s no shame in escaping to the kitchen to “help the cook” with the next course.
Take Control of the Conversation Before It Starts
In many cases, prevention is better than the cure. While the above two tips are great techniques, they’re only Band-Aid solutions. They help you avoid butting heads only after your seatmates asks impolite questions. A better strategy is to take control of the dinner conversation, so they never have an opportunity to ask these questions in the first place.
Pull a Bernie Sanders this holiday and filibuster your way through dinner. In other words, fill silences with conversations you want to have.
If you’re an introvert, this may be a challenge. You can make it easier on yourself by brainstorming topics before the dinner. Recall the other guests and think up questions about their careers, families, or hobbies — these should give you some inspiration for what to ask. You can fall back on the latest movies or TV shows to get people talking, too. If all else fails, you can also use conversation starters to help get the ball rolling.
The Bottom Line? Be Prepared!
Coming prepared to Christmas dinner can save you a lot of grief. You’ll be in a better position to control your own experience, so you aren’t at the mercy of grumpy dinner guests.
Never trust a bad dinner guest will change their habits. If your uncle, cousin, or family friend asks you about money this year, don’t rise to the bait. Stay calm and redirect the conversation to something less stressful.