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20-40-60 Etiquette: Grill the hamburgers, not me
QUESTION: Every year, we attend a July 4 family gathering of about 25 people, and this year, the same negative aunt who always quizzes me about my life will be there. She always wants me to talk about my troubles. I don't know if she wants to ridicule me or gossip about me to others, but I always find myself telling my darkest secrets to her and wishing that I had not confided anything. How can I stop myself from talking so much and be polite to her in answering her questions? She is really good at digging out my problems.
Try to avoid her at all costs.
Make sure that you are always with someone so she can't corner you. Think before you speak.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: We all know people like this, don't we? How they use the information we share varies, but the best way to handle the situation is to be ready for her when she approaches. After all, you already know that you have a weakness for telling your aunt in particular your darkest secrets.
Start by firing at her questions of your own about her life; have them in your mind before you see her. Asking about herself may help deflect her questions about your life and help you get to know her better. You could also avoid her one-on-one altogether, if possible, or only talk to her with groups of people around — with 25 people there, you can have many shields.
Whatever you do, be nice, friendly and ready for her barrage. You could even counter her questions with an answer like “Oh, I don't want to talk about that today. (So-and-so) in our family really seems like she's happy, doesn't she? Or, what do you think about our team being in the NBA Finals?” Answer generically and deflect her questions, and you should be fine.
HELEN'S ANSWER: Sounds like your aunt is a good interviewer and knows how to ask questions. When she continues to “interview” you, tell her “enough about me, tell me about you.” Since you obviously care about what your aunt thinks, remember to make her part of your conversation. If you continue to talk and tell everything you know, you cannot find out about her. Throw in a “what do you think?” every now and then.
You can always say when she asks a question: “Why do you ask?” That gives her time to think that you might be hurt or offended by her question and gives you time to decide how to answer.
And if you can't stop her by being polite, excuse yourself and go talk to someone else at the party.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Ree Drummond, author of “The Pioneer Woman” blog, cookbooks and others and host of Food Network show: Aw, it takes all kinds, doesn't it? But just remember: if you prefer not to talk to your aunt about your troubles, you have the control!
One effective tool of deflection is always a bit of humor.
If your aunt starts to probe, give her a hug around her shoulder and say, “Aunt (insert name), this is way too heavy for Independence Day. We're here to celebrate!” Then go grab her a slice of watermelon.
Another tactic is to subtly turn the conversation around by asking how she is doing.
“Oh, enough about me, Aunt (insert name) — tell me what's been going on in your world lately!”
She might appreciate the chance to discuss her own life, or she might lose interest in the conversation at that point. In any event, have FUN.
That's what July Fourth is all about!