Holiday Questions: What Not to Ask

This is a topic I have spoken out a little bit in the past, but I thought it was a good time to share a reminder of questions to avoid when visiting family this holiday. Here are four questions to avoid, what to ask instead, and how to respond if someone asks you one of these invasive questions.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com

When are you having a(nother) baby?

Don’t ask people about their reproductive plans. If the information is relevant, they will offer it. But if you ask uninvited, you could be bringing up:

  1. Infertility issues: Someone who has been trying to get pregnant might not want to talk about this.
  2. Miscarriages: Someone grieving a miscarriage could find this question triggering.
  3. Judgment about their life choices: Some people do not want kids, or do not want more kids, and that is fine. But by asking this, you might be implying that their choices are not valid.
Instead, ask:
  1. What have you been up to?
  2. Do you have any new projects you want to talk about?
  3. How is (existing family member) doing?
If you get asked this question:

Deflect, redirect, or decline to answer.

  1. Here are some things I have been doing at work lately.
  2. Here are some pictures from a trip I took this year.
  3. The turkey tastes really good this year!
  4. That’s a very personal question, and I am surprised you feel comfortable asking.
  5. When are you going to have another baby?

When are you getting married?

Don’t ask people their plans for marriage. Again, if it is relevant, they will tell you. Some people choose not to get married, and that is fine. Other people want to get married but have not met the “right person,” and bringing this up could be hurtful. Just don’t ask.

Instead, ask:
  1. How has work been going?
  2. How has (friend) been doing?
  3. What’s new in your life?
If you get asked this question:

Deflect, redirect, decline to answer.

  1. No plans right now.
  2. Trust me, if there was news, I would tell you.
  3. That is a very personal question.
  4. I don’t know, when’s your funeral?

Have you lost/gained weight?

It’s rude to comment on someone else’s body. It is not helpful, and even if you think you are giving a compliment, your words could be harmful. Maybe they lost weight due to an illness, or maybe your “compliment” is reinforcing disordered eating. Just don’t comment on people’s bodies, okay?

Instead, ask:
  1. I love your shoes, where did you get them?
  2. Can I get you a plate?
If you get asked this question:
  1. That’s a very rude thing to say.
  2. I would rather talk about (accomplishment).
  3. Pass the apple pie!

Why aren’t you drinking?

People choose not to drink alcohol for a number of reasons, which they may or may not feel comfortable sharing with you. It is okay to offer someone a drink, but if they decline, let it go. Do not ask probing questions, and do not pressure them to have a drink.

Instead, ask:
  1. Can I get you a soda?
  2. Can I get you some water?
  3. Can I get you a coffee?
If you get asked this question:
  1. No thank you, I don’t want a drink. (Repeat as necessary.)
  2. That’s a very personal question.
  3. I’ll have (non-alcoholic beverage).

I hope you have an enjoyable, non-invasive holiday!

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. Her clinical interests are varied and include child and adolescent therapy, TF-CBT, rural psychology, telemental health, sexual and domestic violence, psychological assessment, and mental illness prevention. Dr. Marschall presently works in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at Sioux Falls Psychological Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she provides individual and family therapy and psychological assessment to children, adolescents, and college students. She also facilitates an art therapy group for adolescents and college students with anxiety and depression. Dr. Amy Marschall is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Telemental Health.

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