How to Handle Uncle Bob’s Outbursts at the Holiday Table

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We all have one. You know, the family member who always seems to say or do something totally inappropriate (and often gross) at the holiday dinner table. Let’s call him Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob is little Duck Dynasty topped off with a healthy dose of The Dukes of Hazzard. You see him coming from a mile away and think, “Yep. We have the same blood running through our veins. I’m doomed. But more importantly, how will I handle his annual “outbursts” during dinner?”

Short of duct taping his mouth shut (or securing him to a chair in another room), here’s how to handle the conversations you don’t want happening at your holiday dinner table:

Have the Tough Conversation

Before Uncle Bob arrives, give him a quick call. Let him know that while you’re excited to see him, you would rather some topics not be discussed at dinner–like his daily pooping habits or what Aunt Bertha had growing on her chin last week. Approach the conversation in a tasteful manner, using constructive feedback and a positive tone, rather than being negative and harsh.

Stop Him at the Door

When he arrives, pull him aside and have the tough conversation face-to-face. Explain gently that some topics are best saved for another day. Encourage him to talk about sports, his boat, or his woodworking hobby. Again, do this tastefully and without being abrupt or accusatory.

Move Him to the Kid’s Table

If you still practice the tradition of having the kids sit at a separate table, ask Uncle Bob if he would mind being the chaperone on duty this year (and every year that follows). This removes him from adult conversations and keeps him focused on something other than idle chit chat gone wrong.

Steer the Conversations

As the host, you have the luxury of starting conversations and steering them in the right direction. Ask questions as people chime in and break off onto other topics as appropriate.

Burn His Invitation

If, despite your best efforts, Uncle Bob continues to make others feel uncomfortable, maybe it’s time to rethink your guest list. This might seem drastic, but sometimes you have to make tough decisions in order to keep the peace and the holidays happy.

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