The holidays are a great time but they can also mean lots of questions from relatives. Some of these may be questions you don’t want to answer. This situation is uncomfortable for anyone but for people with anxiety it can make family dinners seem unbearable. Unwittingly, relatives can bring up topics you are extra sensitive about like a recent breakup or unemployment. The solution to this issue? Come prepared. Here are a few of the questions you may be faced with and how to tackle them.
“Are you seeing anyone?”
We all know the trap of this question, if you say yes you get endless questions about the person and if you say no you get questions about why not. Worse than that they may try and set you up with their friend’s lovely child. The best way to handle this question is give a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer and then steer the conversation toward them. Ask your relative how they met their partner or if they are single ask them a question about themselves when they were your age. While you may get caught listening to a long story, it will definitely take the pressure of you.
“Have you found a job yet?”
If you are a student, recent grad, or newly unemployed person this question can be downright terrifying. We are our own worst critics and are definitely already stressing about not having a job lined up. The best way to avoid this question if you don’t want to answer is to talk about something else you are doing. Did you recently read a great book? Learn a new skill? Take a trip? Steer the conversation toward your other accomplishments and away from your place of insecurity.
“Did you lose/gain weight?”
There is something about family that makes them feel entitled to ask inappropriate questions. While there is not much you can do about this one it is important to mentally prepare yourself. Prior to the dinner know that there may be some questions that make you very uncomfortable and they are not a reflection on you. Generally when someone asks such an intimate question it is because they have their own insecurities. If you don’t want to answer questions about your weight or eating habit there are two options. Depending on your family it may be best to respond with humor – ie. “I just can’t get enough of Mom’s cooking”. Alternatively, now may be the time to set boundaries, let the person know that those comments are not okay with you. Keep your tone firm but your words polite – ie. “I really am not comfortable talking about that topic and I would appreciate if you didn’t bring it up”. Your family members likely mean no harm and will feel bad that they made you uncomfortable. This advice goes for questions about money, when you will be having kids, or any other very personal subject.
“How are you feeling?”
If you have previously been open with your family about a mental health issue this will be a common question. While very well intentioned it may not be something you would like to answer at a table of 20+ people. If you are close with the family member and do want to talk about it with them, let them know you would love to to chat another time. Suggest the two of you go out for coffee, dinner, or just chat privately later. If it is someone you are not comfortable talking about this with that is your choice, don’t feel pressured. You can simply say “I have been okay” or some variation and leave it at that. Once again changing the subject to one of your recent accomplishments can be useful here too.