Avoid The Awkward Pause

One of the great joys of the holiday season is the chance to spend time with family members that you don’t get to see the rest of the year.

Unfortunately, that’s also one of the stressful things about the holidays – extended family that you don’t see the rest of the year.

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Michael Hyatt recently shared a list of nine conversation starters to help get over the awkwardness, small talk, and unfortunate side-paths we sometimes find at extended-family gatherings. It’s a great way to be pro-active about the dinnertime fellowship; among other advantages, he says,

It filters out the weird. If you’ve got a track to run on and everyone can join in, you can also avoid a lot of the odd and awkward moments. Instead of feeling trapped, you can feel empowered.

We have some other thoughts that may help, too

Try and stay out of bad conversations altogether. The old rule of avoiding politics and religion is hard to do when anyone has strong convictions about them. However, it’s useful to have some inoffensive ways to step back from an invitation to confrontation:

  • “Don’t get me started,” said with a wry smile or rolling eyes. That communicates, “I’ve got an opinion, but this might not be the time to ask me about it.”
  • “Can I plead the Fifth on that?” again says, “I think that stating my opinion right now might get me in trouble, so I’d rather not.”
  • “Can we discuss this later?” is a little more direct, but it leaves the door open to talk about an issue one-on-one if it’s worthwhile.
  • “Thank you, I’ll consider that.” This is our favorite response to unwelcome advice. It says, “I hear you and I’m polite enough to think about what you say, but I’m not going to be bullied into a response right now – and the decision is mine to make, after all.”

Anticipate the worst questions and have an answer in mind

When I was doing media interviews as the spokesman for our state homeschool organization, I would try and think of the worst question they might ask. Was there anything I was just praying they wouldn’t ask? If so, that was the question I had to have an answer for!

If there’s anything controversial or embarrassing going on in your family – an unpopular child-rearing decision, a medical situation, someone in trouble – isn’t it likely someone will ask? Do you have an aunt or great-grandparent who’s always worried about your decision to homeschool? Are you expecting your fourth child and there wasn’t universal celebration of your third? Plan ahead how you’ll explain your position on it, politely and pleasantly, but firmly – and don’t ad lib!

You don’t want to be that relative yourself!

There is a story about a young man invited on a blind date. He was thinking the stereotypical thoughts about the poor girl who didn’t have any friends, probably awkward or plain, and such, and feeling very noble about himself. When he was introduced to her, though, she wasn’t just pretty – she was gorgeous, elegant, a knockout! And he suddenly realized that he was the “blind date,” not her.

We might get braced to deal with obnoxious and antagonistic relatives, but in fact, could we be the unpleasant person in the group? How can we avoid becoming the person everyone wants to avoid?

Figure out other people’s hot buttons – then don’t push them!

Know thyself and be on guard. Do you ever get into a certain frame of mind that you regret later? It doesn’t take an alcoholic buzz – you may get unfiltered when you’re tired, stressed, or hungry. You may be doing the family a kindness if you get yourself a snack instead of falling into crabbiness. Be aware of your own weaknesses and walk carefully around them.

Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. That’s the advice of the apostle James, and it’s good to remember – all the time!

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Grace, grace, grace. We all need grace from God, and we need grace from other people. We can start by showing grace to them first, and set the example in our family’s gatherings this year.

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6 NKJV)

Hal and Melanie Urban Street Short Cropped


In Christ

Hal and Melanie

Here’s some last minute help preparing for the trip and the celebration: 

Some great audiobooks will make the travel go smoothly – CLICK HERE for downloadable family fun!

Our favorite Thanksgiving recipes and the Thanksgiving story, if you’re supposed to bring a casserole or devotional and you’ve drawn a blank, our downloadable Christ-Centered Thanksgiving will help – and it’s free if you’re on our newsletter list! CLICK HERE and get your copy for free!

(If you’re already on the list, go ahead and sign up to receive the ebook – you won’t be added to our mailing list twice!)

Our recent podcasts on Teaching Gratefulness and Preparing for Christ-Centered Holidays – always free!