How to Cope with Unwanted Questions During the Holidays

Ouch that break-up, what happened? Are you ever going to get married? Are you planning on having kids anytime soon? Still sober? What happened to what’s her/his name? Sound familiar?

For some, the holidays are a time of joy and time with those we love. For others, it is a time that may remind us of painful memories, or responsibility to others at our own expense. Sometimes going home for the holidays or having family and/or friends to visit can mean being badgered with unwanted questions about your personal life or things that may have changed that you do not want to explain. Here are some ideas for managing these uncomfortable situations.

  • You do not owe anyone a response, period. It has been ingrained in us, that in order to be respectful, we respond when spoken to. This does not mean that if someone has asked us about a topic we do not want to discuss, that we cannot be assertive and respectfully decline to respond.
    • Assertive communication means effectively and appropriately sharing your wants, needs and boundaries.
  • If you feel the need to respond, you can try one of the following:
    • Evasion: “Thank you for asking.”
    • Divert attention: “I have had a busy year, what have you been up too/how is so and so?”
    • Direct: “I’m not comfortable answering that” or “I’m working on myself and would like to keep this private.”
    • Have a “buddy” to help you dodge these questions. Maybe your sister is particularly supportive and understanding, make sure she knows that you do not want to be asked about your DUI, or your divorce, etc.  Let her run interference for you.
    • Or, just walk away!
  • It can be really helpful to practice some of these communication skills in advance, especially if you are not used to asserting yourself in this manner, or you have been feeling particularly vulnerable.
  • Our frustration or sadness around these questions does not mean we do not love or care for the people that ask them. People show they care in different ways, and sometimes it takes reminding them that their words can hurt to change their behavior.

If going home, or having people over causes you undue stress, anxiety, depression, panic or any other overwhelming emotion, don’t do it this year (or ever)! Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give. You are working hard enough, spend your time doing what you want to do, with who you want to do it.

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