Awkward Family Moments and How to Handle Them

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Awkward family moments- they happen to everyone. Especially over the holidays. Here are some uncomfortable scenarios and how to handle them gracefully.

Awkward Family Moments: What Do You Do?

It’s the start of the holiday season: a time when we enjoy great food, fun, and family togetherness! But it can also be time when we have a few awkward family moments we’d rather not have to relive. Here are some practice scenarios so you can gear up to make some more positive holiday memories. We might not look like an annoyingly perfect stock photo, but we can create happy and authentic experiences with our family.

family woman insecure#1: The relative with no filter really starts talking.

Sweet Cousin Juniper makes a passing remark on how much weight you’ve gained since last time, and how you really shouldn’t help yourself to dessert. What should you do?

Most families have at least one Cousin Juniper in the mix, who might have great intentions but just has no filter. She might make comments about our weight and eating habits, parenting style, housekeeping habits, or pretty much anything that could press our buttons and make us feel “less than”. So when confronted with a person who really knows how to hit your every nerve:

  • Plan your defense in advance. Some people are just blunt and aren’t aware/don’t care about the way that their words might impact your feelings. Instead of being caught off-guard (again!) when someone makes an insensitive comment, have a little quip ready.
  • Explain to Cousin Juniper how her words hurt you. Most of the time, your relatives want to be helpful, even if they have no clue how to express their “help”. Letting them know might make things better.
  • Or accept Cousin Juniper and her lack of a filter, and try to minimize conversations at future family gatherings. Some people just can’t help themselves; especially when they’ve been developing their habits over several decades. So keep a healthy distance, and have another more tactful relative serve as a buffer.

awkward family moments public speaking#2 The Embarrassing Moment Relived. Again and Again.

Delightful Cousin Buster meets your new boyfriend for the first time and reminds him of the time you loudly passed gas on stage while giving a speech in front of the whole school. What should you do?

We all have embarrassing moments from childhood. Things we would like to forget, and never introduce to new friends and family. But we also all have Cousin Busters who are still amused by our past humiliations. We cannot magically extract these memories from them, but when you are confronted with these “embarrassing moment revelers” you can:

  • Be proactive. Tell your guest the story in advance, so it’s really not that funny when they hear it. (Or even if it is, it won’t be quite as amusing the second time around.)
  • Go on a kindness offensive. Flatter Cousin Buster, and just talk about how great he is. He might forget all about your embarrassment since he’s relishing in the glory days.
  • Tell him how much that story bothers you. He might not know how much you hate this memory, so let him know. It might put an end to things.
  • If things still don’t get better, minimize contact with him. You might even want to get that conversation out of the way first so you can focus on happier things.

conspiracy theory#3: The Conspiracy Theorist

When you’re trying to make a call, but dear Uncle Martin rips the cell phone out of your hand and flings it out the window because he thinks alien spies are listening to your call. What should you do?

Many of us have strong opinions on various issues. Many of these opinions are rooted in verifiable, scientific facts. Others are based on bogus conspiracies.

One of my friends had a mini family crisis because someone was flirting with the idea that the earth is flat. He had jumped down the YouTube rabbit hole of conspiracy theories that seemed fairly plausible, if only it weren’t for the science and satellite images of a round earth.

So when the Uncle Martins of the world want to engage in a rousing debate:

  • Resist the urge to argue! You will never, ever convince them that they’re wrong. Even if you’re arguing the most obvious truth, you will never win!
  • Respecting your elders doesn’t mean agreeing with them. Especially if children are involved, make sure they understand that they can love Uncle Martin without agreeing with him. If he’s been rambling to them about conspiracy theories, speak truth to your children.

pyramid scheme salesperson#4: The Overzealous Salesperson

Sweet Sister Suzy has found a new hair product/essential oil/style option/vitamin that will change your life!! For just $10,000, you, too, can join her team and find the miracle that she’s been believing for. So, what should you do?

I must confess, that I have definitely been a “Sister Suzy” in recent months encouraging my family to use the amazing offerings of FamilyApp. Fortunately, right now everyone can use it for free, and we’re rolling out more fabulous features soon!

But it’s easier for someone to smile and nod their way through a conversation about a new, free app, then, say, a new hand cream or essential oil package that could cost $200 when money might be tight right now. So when someone tells you about a new money-making opportunity/life-changing product:

  • Hear them out- you might just love their products. I’ve gotten many great items from multilevel-marketing companies.
  • If you’re not interested, be upfront and honest.  That way, you don’t have to hear about something that doesn’t interest you, AND they can move on to another person.
  • Don’t feel guilty about saying “no”. If you get any pushback after you pleasantly reject their “life-changing” opportunity, stand your ground.

Cherish the Awkward Family Moments

From time to time, we can all be the source for some of these awkward family moments. And more.   Have I been overly blunt, or relished in someone else’s past embarrassing moment? Yes- 100% yes.

But will I be walking on eggshells around family members when we get together over the holidays? Definitely not.  Part of what makes family relationships so beautiful is the fact that even though we create awkward family moments when we get together, we can also bring out the best qualities in each other. Qualities like forgiveness, hope, and love.

As long as we continue to respect, value, and listen to each other, we’ll strengthen our family bonds and have a really enjoyable time together–awkward family moments and all!

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