“It’s like your children talking about holidays, you find they have a quite different memory of it from you. Perhaps everything is not how it is, but how it’s remembered.” ~ Denis Norden
You’re excitedly headed over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house for the holidays, only to find yourself bombarded with questions from Aunt Sally, Grandpa Joe and whoever else begins to inquire about your job, your relationships, your career or your life in general. “Are you still at that job?” “When are you going to find someone to settle down with?” “When are you getting married, having kids, going back to school. . .” and the list goes on.
These well meaning people can rock our confidence, making us feel inadequate. If you’re not the recipient of this barrage of questions you’ve probably witnessed some other poor soul getting hit with them.
When we feel judged or scrutinized a natural reaction is to become defensive and angry, leaving us feeling we may just not be good enough. If this is something your anticipating as we head into the holiday season, or maybe it’s commonplace during family gathering here are a few things you can do to prepare:
Anticipate: Who are the interrogators? What questions are most likely to come up? Where are your “safe zones”.
Prepare: Once you know who is most likely to interrogate you, you can be strategic with where you spend your time, where your sit, etc. Have a couple standard answers ready to go, such as “A relationship? Who’s got time for that?” or “My job is going just fine, thanks”. It’s also ok to redirect with a polite response of, “I’m not open to discussing that” and change the subject.
Generally speaking, people ask questions because they genuinely care and would like to help, so if a question comes up that you could use help with it’s the perfect time to ask. For example, if you are trying to find a new job and Uncle Jim asks why you’re still at that job. You could respond with, “I haven’t been able to find anything in the area that pays what I’m making right now, if you know of anything I’d love a good lead.” or “I can’t seem to get through to the decision makers, do you know anyone you could connect me with?”
Focus on the Good: Remove yourself from the conversations that you don’t want to be part of, offer to help in the kitchen, hang out at the kids table or in the play area, get everyone to answer a question like, “what are you most grateful for this season” to steer the conversation to something positive.
Remain Calm: Some people like to get a rise out of you, some don’t even know they’re offending you so do your best to remain calm. Focus your attention on the people and things that give you happiness or at least peace – your safety zone – and spend your time there. Don’t read into anything, either answer the question or redirect it and move on.
Remember that your life is YOUR life – you get to live it the way you choose, not how anyone else thinks you should. You’re doing just fine and the future is bright.