How to handle a nosy family
Talking points for common family interrogations.
You know the routine: As soon as everyone at the family gathering has had a drink, the floor is open…for disaster. If you had a dollar for every time your mother-in-law asked you why she doesn’t have any grandkids yet, you’d have enough money to bribe a professional child model just to get her off your back. To prep you, we posed three family-interrogation scenarios to the pros.
If you’re unemployed
Use your relatives to widen the net.
“Work the room,” says Bela Gandhi, founder and president of Smart Dating Academy, who also offers career coaching. “Tell whoever’s asking, ‘The job search is good, but it could always be better, and that reminds me: I was hoping I could pick your brain and ask if you know anyone at these companies.’ You never know. You might think Grandma just sits at home and knits scarves, but Grandma’s neighbor might be the CFO of Redbox.”
If you’re not dating anyone
Keep your personal life personal.
Decide ahead of time how much you want to share and stick to it, says Shisha Amabel, a licensed therapist on the clinical staff at Cathedral Counseling Center. “These questions can be very intrusive, and even though it’s family who’s asking, that doesn’t mean you have to open up your whole life.”
If you’re married but not procreating
Turn the question back on the asker.
If a family member is asking about your nonexistent offspring for selfish reasons, which is likely the case with an anxious mother-in-law who’s excited for grandkids, politely ask the relative why he or she is so concerned, says Nikki Lively, a staff therapist at Family Institute at Northwestern University. “It takes the pressure off you,” Lively says. “It’s a way to soothe the other person’s emotional anxiety while getting through the question.”
How to deal with racist or homophobic relatives By Lauren Viera
Try not to use the words racist or homophobic. “Then you’re calling names, which will make [your relatives] defend themselves. If you can find a way to interject something along the lines of, ‘You’re making me uncomfortable with your language,’ that’s best.”—Michelle Emerick, licensed clinical psychologist and director of clinical training at Howard Brown Health Center
Play dumb and ask questions. “Ask [your relative], ‘What makes you say that?’ even if you know why. Take the naive approach. Sometimes when people are challenged a little, they’ll knock it off.”—Annie Avery, licensed therapist at Cathedral Counseling Center
Ask Grandma to intervene. “Tell a third party that you’re not after change in people’s attitudes or thoughts; you just want them to stop saying these things in front of you. You may be able to have some influence if you go behind the scenes with an intermediary [the relative trusts].”—Avery
Call a friend to vent. “Remind yourself that you have supporters.”—Emerick