The holiday survival guide to get you through those dreaded conversations and stressful social situations

Holidays are meant for relaxing, spending time with loved ones, and homemade food. That being said, this holiday cheer also comes with the inevitable awkward social situations we’ve managed to avoid throughout the other forty-odd weeks of the year. We’ve all experienced it – having to answer deeply personal questions from our great aunt or second cousin, the uncomfortable run-in with your ex, and the never-ending time commitments being hurled at us from all directions. This year, we’re giving you the tools and savvy to pivot away from these situations to make your holidays as painless as possible.

At SM&, we know the importance of consistent messaging. Below, find our holiday survival guide with some all too familiar situations and key talking points, so you are prepared to divert any conversation:

Situation 1: Your distant relatives remember you live Boston and are keen on having you be their personal tour guide and Airbnb – because we all have time to play host.

Key strategies:

  • Explain how work has been picking up lately and you’ve been really busy. You desperately want that promotion, and they naturally want that for you too, right?
  • Lament that you barely have time to complete all the projects around your house that have been adding up, like that clogged toilet or broken heat.
  • Go above and beyond by adding some new apartment troubles into the mix, such as your new heavy-metal loving roommate and his sick cat.

These key messages express your desire to show your relatives around. Alas! Due to outside influences beyond your control you can’t possibly meet their request.

Redirect them here. Oh, and here too.

Now, they have some great resources to steer them in a helpful direction.

Situation 2: Dinner has just been laid on the table. You haven’t eaten all day to save room for the food, and boom, political conversations start unraveling.

Here’s the time to start practicing that mindful breathing you’ve told yourself would be your New Year’s resolution…since 2015.

Key strategies:

  • PIVOT! Steer the conversation to something else entirely—the new Netflix show you just binge-watched, Grandma’s fruitcake recipe, or the crazy antics of your new heavy metal loving roommate’s sick cat.
  • Get some wireless earbuds and select an informative podcast, then just smile and nod while Uncle Rick rants.
  • Tuck and roll.

While the above list is meant in good fun, keep an eye out for signs of polarization, agitation, and strong emotions before things take a turn for the worst. Foster a sense of curiosity and avoid the method of “attack and defend.” Acknowledge each other’s opposing viewpoints, and steer into a more platonic zone of agreeing to disagree. Then move on.

Situation 3: You arrive at your old stomping grounds and are sent on errands to grab a third bag of ice that your mom swears you’ll need. You’re at the local grocery store and run into a high school acquaintance that you’ve only maintained a relationship with by throwing them a “like” every now and then on social media.

Don’t try to hide, they’ve already seen you.

Key strategies:

  • Attack this situation head on and ask how they’ve been. Tell them that you live in Boston now and it’s great! Yes, this year’s weather predictions are dicey. Classic conversation ender.
  • Point to the aforementioned wireless ear buds and mouth, “Sorry – on an important conference call for work.” Then hope she didn’t read your last Insta post about being “funemployed.”
  • Leverage the bag of ice! It will melt if you don’t say a quick goodbye and return home immediately. This strategy is fool-proof.

Remember, your holiday pain may be someone else’s good-willed attempt at holiday cheer, and your visiting relatives, Uncle Rick, and Susie Whatshername from high school probably genuinely want to know how you’re doing. But maneuvering unpleasant situations is a skill, and since you know these not-so-fun moments are coming, be prepared.

So, this holiday season, be kind, be gracious, be savvy, get some ear buds, always carry a bag of ice, and take care of your roommate’s sick cat!