Prepared talking points can help avoid awkward conversations during holiday dinners

Written by: 
Hannah Jones

With the holiday season right around the corner, BYU-Hawaii students discussed ways they keep the conversation going while connecting with family on a deeper level. For some students, it requires preparation of knowing what is coming their way.


Ally Pack, a freshman from Idaho studying business management, said she is determined to avoid the awkward silence often times associated with family get-togethers.


According to an article from Bruce Feiler in The New York Times, “Good conversation is as central to a successful dinner party as good food…yet, it’s the area that gets the least planning and thought.”


Think of questions

Pack said she often resorts to having pre-planned questions in her preparation for the holiday events. “It’s quite simple. There’s websites all over the place that have PDFs of just questions,” she said.


Olivia Szendre, a freshman from Washington studying exercise science, said she tries to avoid the question: “What boys are you dating?” Szendre said she avoids lengthy conversations about this topic by saying, “I’m just figuring it out.”


Ethan Magalei, a freshman from Laie with an undeclared major, said he avoids dating questions by saying, “Oh, I’m planning on going on a mission so I don’t want any distractions right now.”


For those who have already served missions and still struggle to avoid family discussions about being single, Magalei advised, “Make up someone.”


Have stories to share

Pack suggested changing the subject and talking about events that matter. She stated, “I think family members are more likely to care when talking about unique events that have happened to you.”


Magalei said it’s always acceptable to talk about school. He said he thinks talking about school is a great way to understand where everyone is at in life since his family is “in a million different places.”


Listening is as important as talking

Despite Pack’s use of pre-planned questions, she said, “You have to actually listen and not think of pre-planned answers to their responses. I’d be more willing to share … if my family would listen to what I was talking about … instead of just trying to relate it back to themselves.”


Feiler concluded in his article, “A successful conversation requires multiple parties— a shifting alliance of talkers and listeners, performers and audience members, alphas and betas. If you’ve spent more than one course playing only one of these roles, odds are you’re upsetting the harmony.”


Pack suggested, “Care about the person you want to hear from because it goes a long way when you actually listen. “Politics, religion, [and] your definition of love can create friction. It’s best to understand your audience. Make jokes to lighten the mood.”


Focus on others

Szendre said she looks forward to connecting and reuniting with her family over the holidays. She said, “If I haven’t seen my family in a long time, I’d want to make sure [they’re] happy [and] are pleased with the life they’re living [and] make sure everything is going good.


“I always feel worried about my siblings. I think it’s good to ask, ‘Are you happy with what you’re doing? Is this worth the time and effort you’re putting into it?’”

Date Published: 
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Last Edited: 
Saturday, November 11, 2017