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How to (Politely) Handle Your Relatives This Thanksgiving

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

Thanksgiving’s time-honored traditions include gathering around the table to enjoy a feast, showing gratitude and enduring inappropriate comments from relatives.

Whether or not they are delivered with malicious intent, unwelcome judgements from family members can be difficult to deal with. In preparation for the upcoming holiday, it’s important to lay the groundwork so these jabs don’t ruin your Thanksgiving.

Take a look at these notorious comments in order to handle unwanted criticism politely this holiday season.

“I can tell you’re eating well at school”

In college, it’s normal for weight to fluctuate. Busy schedules lead to missed work-outs and dining hall food isn’t the best source of a balanced diet. Despite the normalcy of these changes, it doesn’t feel great to have them pointed out.

Your relatives might think comments like this one are the same as saying “look how much you’ve grown,” so take a kind approach in your response. Take a deep breath and kindly ask your relative not to comment on your weight.

More importantly, don’t let comments like this stop you from enjoying Thanksgiving, you deserve a hearty home-cooked meal.

“eat up! you need to put some meat on those bones”

This comment isn’t winning any gratitude either. Your relative might mean it as a compliment, but as a criticism to your appearance, it’s still unsettling to hear.

Try not to let it ruin your appetite, a Thanksgiving feast is something to be cherished. Cast the comment aside and put as much food as you want on your plate.

Reminding relatives that any comment regarding weight is off limits is helpful to ensure that future celebrations won’t be tainted by unwanted criticism.

“It can’t be good for you to not eat meat”

Dietary restrictions are especially challenging to manage around the holidays and hearing critical remarks from others doesn’t make it any easier.

Remember to listen to what you know is best for yourself and find pride in your discipline to restrain from certain foods. Try playing a game where you eat a cookie every time a comment like this is mentioned.

If you know these comments are coming, do some preliminary research on the benefits of your diet so that you can prove ignorant relatives wrong.

“Who are you voting for in the upcoming Election?”

Politics are known to divide the dinner table. Since it’s an election year, questions about who you’re voting for are bound to arise.

Opinions regarding politics and other controversial topics are more likely to cause a food fight to break out than they are to change over Thanksgiving dinner.

Instead of wasting your feast, try avoiding controversial topics like this by changing the subject or simply refusing to pick a side.

However, if you are inclined to break out into debate, make sure to suspend judgement and listen respectfully.

“How are you going to get a job with a major like that?”

Thanksgiving is a time to take a much deserved break from thinking about future career goals. However it is also natural for family members to be curious about what you’re up to.

Creating a balance between these two ideals is important in order to maintain an enjoyable atmosphere this Thanksgiving.

Wherever you are in the job search process is the right place for you to be, even if comments like this don’t make it seem so. Address their remark politely by reminding them to restrain from judgement.

Instead of snapping back, politely say that the job market has changed in the time since they were in its midst. Prepare a few tidbit remarks about what you’re currently working towards. Then you can direct the conversation away from yourself by asking them about how their work is going.

These strategies help promote a positive conversation about your career goals and accomplishments without unnecessary judgements.

“How do you not have a boyfriend with a face like that?”

Aww, how rude.

Perhaps this comment would be nice to hear if you were having brunch with your girlfriends, but from your grandmother it’s quite uncomfortable.

However, there are many ways to address your love life politely with relatives.

Being vulnerable and answering honestly is one option. However, if you’re not ready to share details, simply saying “you’ll be the first to know!” deflects any future questions.

However you decide to present your love life to your family, coming prepared with a response to potential questions is always helpful.

Hopefully, politely handling these uncomfortable topics will be a very small piece of the pie this Thanksgiving. Coming prepared with answers to potential questions is helpful for creating a positive environment around the holidays.

Enjoy your feast this holiday season!

Hello! My name is Katherine Engleka and I'm a student at Penn State University. I work as a writing tutor at the writing center and I'm the non-fiction coordinator of Penn State's literary magazine Kalliope.