Picture this: You’re in a Christmas dinner with your family, peacefully enjoying your meal, when your aunt suddenly asks you, “Why are you still unemployed?” What do you say?
Christmas time means a bunch of parties and family reunions to attend, which some of us are actually looking forward to. But there’s always that crippling anxiety that grips us whenever we think about seeing our relatives. Will they finally quit asking about our love life and career?
Knowing what not to say during Christmas parties is important to avoid tension and discomfort among family members. “Having good etiquette is all about making others feel comfortable and respected,” says Myka Meier, founder of New York’s Beaumont Etiquette school. “Therefore, before you ask a question, think how the other person could feel. Any question that may cause someone to feel under pressure, uncomfortable, self-conscious or judged is one to steer clear of.”
I’d like to believe that no one actually wants to hurt anyone’s feelings, but there’s always a tendency for some people to cross certain boundaries—especially when it comes to asking about our personal lives.
If you’re wondering how to start and engage in better conversations in your upcoming parties, ask these questions instead:
People who are employed don’t like to be reminded of their work during the holidays. It’s the only time they can really take a break, so don’t annoy them with insensitive work-related questions. For example, instead of asking how much they make (which is a totally rude thing to do BTW), why not ask them what they like about their job? Ask them about their colleagues—are they treating them well? Are they easy to talk to? Here are more options:
Are you having fun at work?
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
What was your favorite project so far?
But how about those who are unemployed? The worst thing you could do is to ask them about why they’re unemployed. So before asking someone about their work, start with “What do you for fun?” That might be more useful and could lead to a more interesting conversation. A simple question like “How are things going?” could also help. But remember, it’s still up to them if they want to talk about these things.
Relationships and family
This is where it can get really intrusive. We all have that one aunt/uncle who asks awkward questions, and sometimes, we just don’t know how to respond to not come off as rude. Single people get asked about why they are still single. As for people in a relationship, they get asked about when they’re getting married. And for married couples, there’s always the classic, “When are you going to have a baby?”
Besides these questions being intrusive, they’re also kind of sexist, especially with questions like, “Why aren’t you married yet?” These kinds of questions make women feel bad about not wanting to have a partner or a baby. And it’s not like women should have a to-do list they have to complete by a certain age. Here are some questions you can try asking instead:
For single people
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I admire the way you’re living your life. Can you share some tips?
How’s your partner?
How old are your kids?
I’m sure some of you have heard the line “O,tumaba ka!” from your relatives, and I know how annoying it can be. While our loved ones have our best interests at heart, questions like that can be damaging, especially for those struggling with body image/issues. Here are the questions I’d rather hear (or better yet, we should probably just skip body-related questions):
How do you stay motivated?
How do you maintain your health?
Now, this is where it gets really personal because this is where everything comes together—from work, relationships, and body choices. In making life choices, we often worry if we’re going to disappoint the people around us. The choices will always be subject to criticism, especially from our family. They might ask questions about your tattoos, your religious beliefs, your sexuality, but you don’t always have to explain yourself. Rather, these are some questions they should ask you more often:
How is life going for you?
Tell me more about your beliefs that you think people should know more about.