In an ideal world, we could just skip the awkward small talk with relatives we haven’t seen in a year and just go straight to stuffing our faces with food and binge-watching Christmas movies. Although they’re family and we love them dearly, we can’t help cringing at the thought of all the inevitable questioning we want to avoid. Between the classic, “Are you still single?” and “How were your grades last semester?” it’s easy to feel like you’re being interrogated. Relax. It’ll be okay. Just keep this guide in mind when you show up to your family dinner tonight.
Remember, they don’t really want to make you feel bad.
The first thing to keep in mind is that they most likely aren’t judging everything you say. It might feel like their questioning is based on criticism, but the reality of it is they probably just don’t know what else to talk to you about. It may have been months since your relatives last saw you, and they want to be friendly and catch up with what goes on in your life. They might have no idea about that awesome concert you saw a couple of weeks ago or that road trip you’re planning with your friends. They can’t ask about something they don’t know is happening. Naturally the first questions that come to mind, like asking about your grades, might seem invasive. However, it’s just easy for them to ask those questions because they know you’re in school.
Think about it this way – going through college is a big accomplishment. Wouldn’t you be interested in learning about your family members’ accomplishments? I promise it’s coming from a genuine place!
Have some goals to talk about.
Relatives want what’s best for you. They want to make sure you’re spending your time in college wisely. It can easily feel like you’re being attacked when you just got rejected from that internship you wanted and then your relatives ask what kind of experience you’re getting. And it’s definitely uncomfortable when they ask about your grades after you didn’t do so hot on your finals. Instead of feeling like you have to put your failures on display, turn the conversation around and talk about what you hope to achieve.
So when they ask about your professional experience, say something along the lines of, “I’m still looking for the perfect internship, but in the meantime I plan on joining a professional organization that will really help me get my foot in the door for some great opportunities.”
Or when they ask about your grades after you just received a less than stellar grade in your composition course, try something like, “I think I can benefit from working more on my writing skills, so next semester I filled some of my free electives with writing and grammar courses.”
Focusing on the positive not only sounds more impressive to your relatives, but it will make you feel good about yourself as well.
Focus on something you want to talk about.
As previously mentioned, relatives often focus on questions based on school or relationships since they don’t know what else is going on your life to talk about. Before showing up to the holiday party, think about things that you would have fun sharing. If you kick off a conversation with your aunt about your winter break plans or some new friends you met in school, it will give her more to ask about rather than all the topics you’re trying to avoid.