As we head into the first of the holiday festivities, many of us feel a certain amount of…Well, let’s say “trepidation”…at the thought of sitting down next to Great Aunt Ida or second-cousin Bob and hearing their ideas about how we “should” be living our lives/how our politicians “should” be running the government/how our children “should” be behaving, etc, etc.
With this in mind, I put together the following noncommittal responses for use during these family conversations. (Or, as my father used to say, “Opportunities to get to know each other better.”)
“I can tell you’ve given this a lot of thought”
This is one I bust out after I’ve been subjected to an extended monologue from a loved one. Why do I like it so much? Well, it begins with “I” as opposed to “you”, which is automatically less confrontational (particularly if you’re initial reaction runs along the lines of, “You have got to be kidding me!”)
That said, this phrase does include the word “you” which Yale University has flagged as the most persuasive word in the English language. (My caveat to that is, “Used appropriately.”)
“Tell me more”
While “Tell me more” doesn’t always roll trippingly off the tongue, I find it’s a great safety valve whenever I’m tempted to blow my stack—allowing my dearly-beloved relative to continue their diatribe while I collect my wits (and hopefully recover my temper.)
“Let me think about that”
I love this one, as it fulfills my single-most important quality in a conversation: truthfulness (After all, let’s face it, you are probably going to be giving it some thought once the conversation is over.) On the other hand, please note it commits you to nothing with regard to changing your lifestyle/romantic relationships/politics/personal grooming choices/childrearing policies, or any of the other topics that appear to be fair game when any family gathers to give thanks.
With all my best wishes for your joyful (and harmonious) Thanksgivings,