How To Deal With Pushy Relatives Over The Holidays

by Emma McGowan

Oh, the holidays. This time of year brings thoughts of family traditions, delicious food, holiday office parties — and annoying relatives. For so many of us, the holidays are the one time of year that we see extended family, which can of course be both great — and super irritating. Even if you love seeing your relatives during the holidays, we all have that one aunt or uncle or cousin who gets under our skin. That means it’s important to figure out how you’re going to deflect annoying relatives before you see them this holiday season.

I think one of the most annoying things that inevitably comes up over the holiday season, especially when you’re in your twenties and thirties, is the status of your love life. “Why are you still single? When are you two going to get married? When can we expect grandkids?” are nosy questions that we’ve all heard at some point or another. It can feel like it takes a black belt in social niceties to fend off this stuff, and who has time for that? “My best strategy is to try and re-direct conversations,” Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT, tells Bustle.

So how do you do that and deflect pushy and annoying relatives over the holiday season? Use these seven methods so that you can spend less time being annoyed and more time eating cookies. (Because aren’t cookies what the holidays are really about?)

1. Give Yourself A Pep Talk Beforehand

Your work deflecting pushy relatives starts even before the first glass of Christmas wine is poured. “Part of my strategy for spending time with pushy family members is to give myself a little pep talk about not taking things personally,” Richardson Bustle. “Often pushy people don't understand how they come off to people, so I remind myself that they are not doing this to me, even though it impacts me.”

2. Ask Them A Question About Themselves

There’s nothing like a classic turnaround when a relative asks a question that’s a little more invasive — or annoying — that your relationships allows. When they ask, “Are you still single?” for example, turn it around with a quick, “Yup! But how are your kids these days?”

"Generally, people really like talking about themselves, so asking them questions about their lives is great,” Richardson says.

3. Pretend You Hear A Baby Crying

Or your mom calling from the kitchen. Or the dog barking. Or Santa on the damn roof. Basically, act like something else is pulling your attention and run away. They might think you’re a little nuts, but it’ll get you out of the conversation.

4. Change The Subject

If you don’t feel like talking about whatever it is your relative is asking about, change the subject. Talk about work or what’s going with your friends or one of these other topics that Bustle writer Laken Howard suggests in her piece about things to talk about other than your love life.

“Talking to them about something I'm happy or excited about or mentioning something about current events (I would avoid the recent presidential election) can be a good way to gracefully side step topics that you may want to avoid," Richardson says.

5. Tell Them You Don’t Want To Talk About It

Sometimes the best response is the direct response. It’s simple: Just tell them you don’t want to talk about whatever it is they’re asking about.

“I remind myself that it is OK to tell someone that I do not want to talk about a certain topic,” Richardson says. “People can ask me whatever they want; I have the right to decline to answer.”

6. Don’t Forget About Post-Annoying Relatives Self-Care

This past year has been rough on a lot of levels for a lot of us and “self care” seems to be the word of the season! There’s no reason you can’t apply it to dealing with pushy relatives.

“I also try to plan in self-care or decompression time after I know I will spend time with this person,” Richardson says. “A hot bath, some time to journal or some time venting with a friend can be a way to get through a difficult family event without pulling all my hair out.”

7. Make Your Own Holiday Traditions

And if your family really, really, really drives you bonkers? Forego family events altogether and create your own holiday traditions.

Just remember: Whatever you decide, cookies are essential.

Images: Gelpi/Fotolia; Giphy (7)