How to Survive Awkward Christmas Dinners
If you’re invited to dinner, it is considered bad manners to make your hosts wait for a reply. Decide and give a confirmation, either way. It’s also bad form to ask who else is invited.
IMPROVE YOUR SMALL TALK TOPICS
If you say nothing at the table you may be branded as ‘the rude one’, but saying the wrong thing may make the entire dinner an uncomfortable experience. So here’s the quick fix: practise your small talk. Avoid the weather and which route your guests took, do a little homework and find out their interests. So instead of basic questions like “How are you?” go with a topic that won’t get you eye rolls, sighs or worse, glares.
MIND WHAT YOU SAY
A slip of the tongue is bounty in gold for gossipy relatives who make other people’s lives their mission in life. You don’t want your craving for chocolates a topic of conversation at a party you’re not invited to.
DO NOT COMMENT ON THE FOOD
If you’re the guest, don’t make the food a conversation starter, you don’t know who made it or which grand recipe it came from. If you’re the host and your culinary finesse isn’t reflected back at you, then you’ll feel hurt the whole night.
MANAGE YOUR HOLIDAY EXPECTATIONS
Over-enthusiasm or having high expectations for Christmas may not be good for your mood. New York Hospital’s Payne Whitney Clinic psychiatrist Dr Mallay Occhiogrosso says that overly high expectations for the holidays – be it around the food, the gifts, or the family relationships – may trigger anxiety and depression. No one wants a blue Christmas.
JUST KEEP EATING
Especially raw greens and fresh fruits. This is a legit solution if you need some time to warm up to your guests. A study by the University of Otago in New Zealand found that eating lots of vegetables and fruits may improve your mental health, so you’ll be able to jump in with a smart retort or offer interesting trivia to wow your fellow diners.
GO WITH WHAT YOU KNOW
If you’re cooking dinner this year, go with what you know very well. You don’t need the stress if your sous vide goes wrong and your guests don’t need the food poisoning.
BE A MOVING TARGET
If you don’t feel like mingling or just need a moment to yourself, here’s a trick. Don’t linger in one spot for too long. This makes you a sitting duck for your chattier relatives to approach. Also, don’t pretend that you’re occupied by looking intently at your phone, it fools no one and it just makes you seem more standoffish.
If you’re a guest, know that it really isn’t acceptable to go for dinners without bringing something. Ask your host what they need or what you would like everyone to try. There’s nothing wrong in either making something or buying something. It is however wrong to show up empty-handed.
DON’T BE THAT GUY (or GIRL)
There are questions you don’t like to be asked. Whether it’s your marital status (or lack thereof), job or career, politics or religion, no one wants to be cornered with these loaded questions. So don’t ask them. When you are posed with the query be polite, smile and walk away.
It may be very tempting to call off the dinner. Having a social circle may keep us happy as we get older, says a recent report from the UK. Researchers found that taking part in social events is one of the most effective ways of boosting feelings of well-being and overall health.
HAVE MORE DINNER PARTIES
Yes, you should up the frequency of your social interactions as new research shows that being with friends and family (preferably the ones who like you) can beat the negative effects of stress and improve your brain health. But pick your guests wisely.
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