When my Grandma was alive we had this list of subjects and people you could not talk about at family gatherings. The list was not written down but everyone knew what could be talked about and what must be avoided in order to keep peace. The list was long and included names such as the Kennedys and O.J. Simpson. My Grandma passed away several years ago and with the addition of family members’ spouses and friends, the list no longer applies. I used to think that every family had a list of things you couldn’t bring up at family functions but I know now that isn’t true.
Many people can play it safe by ignoring what is said if they don’t agree. I wish I could be one of those people. Oh sure if it is something that really doesn’t mean anything to me, I will let it slide. However, I can’t ignore a comment about religion or in some cases politics. For instance, when an atheist family member tells me what Jesus would do and it is the exact opposite of what Jesus would do. I will correct him/her. Or my all-time favorite is when a non-religious family member asks me a question about my faith, not because they want to know but they are trying to bait me. If I win (for lack of a better word) that discussion, the response is usually, “Well, I just don’t like people shoving their religion down my throat.” Which my response is usually, “What shoving, you asked.”
This holiday season I am going to try my best to remove the threat of these conversations. My plan is to ignore the question and change the subject. Hopefully this will steer the conversation to a better, more positive place. Here are my top 10 conversation changers.
- “Do you smell something burning?” Fear of burning holiday dinner will have them running for the kitchen.
- “I think your zipper is undone.” This may not be true but while the person is checking his/her zipper, I can walk away.
- “Wow! I hope I’m not coming down with that stomach flu that is going around.” Nobody wants to get in the face of someone that may have the flu.
- “How about that Ebola, eh?” Everyone can agree that Ebola is bad. ***VERY IMPORTANT*** If you plan on trying this, do not combine 3 and 4 by saying you hope you don’t have Ebola. You don’t want to turn a holiday dinner into an international incident.
- Tell a joke that is politically correct. For example, what did the fish say when he ran into the wall? The answer is “dam!” Get it? It is a play on the words dam and damn.
- “What is that wonderful smell? I’m going to check it out.” With holiday cooking going on, something always smells good. This is an easy out.
- “Hey, it is so nice we could all get together this holiday and break bread together.” Wait, scratch “break bread together.” I don’t want to be accused of shoving my religion down anyone’s throat. Replace “break bread” with “have a meal.”
- “Is that a new shirt? Wow! It looks so good on you!” Nothing stops an argumentative person faster than flattery.
- “Remember that time…” Before the family gets together, I will think of some good memories and use them to steer the conversation to a happy time.
- “Did you lose weight?” See number eight.