How To Avoid Awkwardness At Thanksgiving! Real-Life Tips

A professor from Oakland University breaks it down.

November 20, 2018 - 1:51 pm

(WWJ) We've all had that moment when you sit down for a nice chat with family members you rarely see -- and the air strikes come in hot and fast.

"Who did you vote for?"

"Do you still work THERE?" You know, your cousin is doing really well at -- insert awesome place to work. You should ask her for a job."

"When are you going to get married/have a baby/have another baby/become a stay-at-home mom/become a mom with a job/finish college/get serious about your life?"

"You know, a doctor could fix that."

Ugh. The hits keep coming. But they don't have to. Sociology Professor Heidi Lyons of Oakland University sat down with Greg Bowman and Brooke Allen, co-anchors of WWJ Afternoons, to give tips everyone can use for an emotionally healthy Thanksgiving. 

First of all, Lyons suggests avoiding hot button topics like politics and religion, and telling people in advance that boundary has been set. Those topics are off limits.

Preparing a big meal, getting the family, the house and the food ready, and trying to make it all look like a Norman Rockwell painting is stressful enough without conversational landmines to dodge.

"Thanksgiving is high stress, we have really high expectations, we want it to be perfect ... And of course, that's not how it always is," Lyons said.

To make yours as stress-free as possible, Lyons suggests if you get asked a triggering question, answer quickly, then pivot to a safe topic like the weather.

If that doesn't work, turn to someone else and bring them into the conversation. You can also physically remove yourself -- go the bathroom, go for a quick walk to burn off those dinner calories, pick up a child, go to help in the kitchen.

You can also adjust expectations. The day won't be perfect, know that in advance, and roll with it. If your family is too difficult to take for hours at a time, limit your exposure. Show up an hour before the meal, help clean up, then hit the bricks.

These boundaries should help women especially, who tend to take on the joys -- and burdens -- of family life more than men.

If the kids aren't perfectly behaved, it's the woman's fault; If the food isn't delicious food, it's her fault; If the house isn't clean, same.

So, if you're the man in the relationship, Lyons suggests staying alert to offer a helping hand out of awkward situations.

Overall, her one piece of advice is this:

"Self care. Kind of constantly monitoring yourself, trying not to get to that boiling point ... Take a time out. You don't have to stay in that situation until you get to that 10. Monitor, if you're at a 4, go to the bathroom. Help in the kitchen. Change your environment. Talk to your partner or the friend you brought who's your safe person. That's going to help you a have a better, lower stress Thanksgiving."