How to Avoid Awkward Conversations at the Family Christmas Reunion

How to avoid awkward conversations

They say no politics at the dinner table, but that doesn’t mean other awkward conversations won’t arise this Christmas at the family gathering. Here are some tips and icebreakers to avoid uncomfortable situations…

Whether your gathering with relatives is a reunion or whether you see them every other day, Christmas is the prime opportunity for unpredictable (and probably torturous) subjects of conversation. We’ve got some icebreakers to help you take the heat off cringe-worthy moments at the table.

Maxwell & Williams Christmas Poinsettia Platter, 32cm
Poinsettia Tableware Collection and Mansion Stemless Red Wine Glass, 580ml (Set of 6) from Maxwell and Williams, available online at Zanui.

Prepare yourself

The worst thing is getting asked “How are you? What’s been happening?” and being so put on the spot that your response is “Good, thanks. Same old.”

This might be a good time to self-reflect. How was the past year for you really? Did you have any new experiences? Did you travel? What were some stand-out moments?

It could be as simple as trying out a new recipe that has now become your signature dish. It could be teaching your pet a new trick. Whatever good memories you have, keep them at the back of your mind – they will come in handy!

Likewise, be prepared to ask what has been happening with your family members. It’s best to do a bit of sneaky research first though – you don’t want to provoke someone to announce their break-up while passing the gravy.

Reserve Deluxe Red Wine Set from Vinturi
Reserve Deluxe Red Wine Set from Vinturi. Shop Barware online at Zanui.

Know your exits

Aside from being prepared for small talk, you also need to know how to terminate a conversation. (Did you think we meant finding the nearest door?)

If you find that some shared information has led to an awkward silence, try diverting with a different topic of conversation.

Don’t head straight for compliments

Many of us think the go-to is complimenting; saying the stuffing is amazing this year, how delicious the red wine is, telling your dad he looks great in the red sweater your mum knitted.

Side-tracking the conversation this way actually isn’t the best idea. In fact, this kind of draws attention to the awkwardness because everyone knows what you’re trying to do.

Instead, keep the conversation going in a different direction but in one that will kindle a reaction and stimulate more questions.

Tell your sister that her holiday photos looked incredible but follow-up with questions or recommendations. A good conversation doesn’t end with statements!

Look forward

It’s also a good idea to bring up the new year. No better way than burying bad memories with hopeful new ones.

Mention that your little brother is graduating next year and how you can’t wait for the ceremony.

Many bad topics of conversation are about problems, so shift the conversation to solutions. Avoid questions that leave an endless possibility of answers – this could go either way and you don’t want to be the one causing tension.

Instead, ask general encouraging and optimistic questions. Positivity can really lift the atmosphere!

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Remember, it’s Christmas

At the end of the day, it’s a joyous occasion. Make the most of the time you have with your family even if conversing isn’t anyone’s forte.

Whether it’s opening presents by the Christmas tree, having carols played in the background or digging into the much-anticipated pudding, there’s plenty to do in each other’s company that will bring smiles all round.

Worse comes to worst, let Christmas do the talking 😉



Natalie Milad is a content and blog writer who studied journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney. Since her graduation in 2016, she has landed a gig at Zanui. Her days not writing are usually filled with DIY projects, floury benchtops and tending to her bunny. Natalie loves animated short films, animals and Christmas. She has experience in script writing, news reading and interviewing. Among her favourites was interning for The Bridal Bazaar.