Ahhh, the holidays. That special time of year when nosiness is in the air, and your entire family unanimously decides that no topic is off limits. Your relationship status, political views, and current income will all be on the table for possible dinner fodder, so having an expert-approved game plan in place for navigating many a probing (and involuntary) round of Table Topics may be key for making it to the new year unscathed.
In a recent episode of the Savvy Psychologist podcast, Ellen Hendriksen, PhD, tackles how to answer nosy questions in the heat of the moment (without it leading to a Real Housewives of New Jersey table-flipping moment). Here are her four methods.
4 tips to keep your cool when asked about hot-button topics
1. Push back: As the most aggressive of Dr. Hendriksen’s tips, this method involves calling out whoever’s giving you the third degree. “The direct method isn’t for everyone, but if you’re so over being asked when you’re going to get married, set an unmistakable boundary such as, ‘I’m really not comfortable being asked that’,” she says. So if you’re feeling extra done with the current round of 20 Questions, this may be your best course of action.
2. Offer a non-answer: Before you head home for family festivities, go ahead and store a few non-answers up your proverbial sleeve. A few of the psychologist’s favorites include “That’s so nice of you to ask,” “How sweet of you to be concerned,” and “That’s a great question—I get that a lot.”
3. Brush them off with a joke: If you’re the kind of person who can conjure a witty response on the spot, then consider humor your exit strategy of choice. For example, Hendriksen recommends answering the question, “Still no boyfriend?” with, “I’m allergic.”
4. Segue all the way out of the topic: Pivot the conversation away from you so subtly that the other person doesn’t even notice is an expert-approved way to skirt questions. Rather than interrupting a beyond-rude inquiry about your weight by abruptly turning to your cousin to compliment her scarf, go for a more stealthy approach by turning the question back on them. “Answer ‘Why aren’t you married?’ with, ‘It’s complicated, but how did you guys meet?'” says Dr. Hendriksen. Consider it the artful way to remove yourself from the spotlight .
And the best way to pat yourself on the back for weaseling your way out of these nosy questions from relatives? Being the bigger person by not asking none-of-your-business questions yourself.
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