A Yearly Annoyance
The holidays are a time for gathering with your loved ones, sharing meals, making memories—and staving off awkward conversations you’d rather not have. Answering invasive questions from family members during the holidays may be a rite of passage for some, a yearly annoyance for others, or a dreaded annual event that makes even the most well-adjusted among us want to opt out of family time all together.
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However, going into the holidays with a clear way of handling these unwanted queries is key to not letting your family’s inquisitions ruin your season. Here are five ways to handle those invasive questions, kindly and without losing your integrity.
1. Come in With a Plan
You know your family well. You know who’s nosey and who isn’t and you know what questions the nosey people are going to ask you because they ask those same questions every year. This year, be prepared. Think of your answers to those inevitable questions in advance so you aren’t stumbling for an answer with all eyes on you. Knowing the answers to those invasive questions in advance may also keep you from jumping down your (perhaps well-intentioned) family members’ throats. Invasive questions are not polite but the asker isn’t necessarily being malicious.
2. Enlist an Ally
Chances are, you’re not the only one facing invasive questions over the holidays. Enlist your sibling, a cousin or your partner (if applicable) to be your retort buddy. Plan to come to each other’s defense, if needed, when people start slinging around invasive questions and rely on each other for hushed bathroom powwows when necessary during the family gathering in question. Having someone on your side will feel empowering when combatting the questions respectfully, but firmly too.
3. Give Them What They Want—Within Reason
Depending on the nature of the invasive questions—most specifically, the intent—you can throw your family members a proverbial bone when they lob their queries your way. If they ask when you and your significant other are tying the not, you can simply say you look forward to the possibility someday. If they’re jonesing for news on when you’ll have a baby, and this issue is a benign one for you, brush it off by talking about your upcoming international vacation or anything else you wouldn’t be able to do with a kid in tow. However, when the subject matter of the invasive questions is just personal but not hurtful, calmly giving a succinct reason can quell the curiosity, especially if the questions come from a genuine, good place.
4. Deflect When Possible
Sometimes, invasive questions touch a nerve. For instance, maybe your family keeps asking when you’ll have a baby. Perhaps they keep commenting on how much weight you’ve lost, not realizing you’re suffering from depression. Chances are, these aren’t topics you want to discuss at the holiday table. If you’re in a situation where you really, really don’t want to talk about whatever they bring up, this is a good place for your ally to step in. They can change the subject. But when that’s not possible, you can state that you don’t want to have such a personal conversation. If someone pushes you on this, just repeat your statement and excuse yourself if needed. They will absolutely get the hint.
5. Shut Down Offensive Remarks
Sometimes, family members can be downright rude. Comments about weight gain, sexual orientation, race and other touchy subjects may come your way in the form of invasive questions—or worse, judgment. If this is the case, stand up for yourself. Yes, Uncle Leo or Grandma or your own mother may think they’re right, just being helpful, or really don’t understand their own prejudice, but they also need to be told that their comments are not OK. Stand your ground and say clearly that you won’t tolerate commentary or questions about whatever personal subject you find offensive. Full stop.
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