It’s the time of year where we are having more frequent get-togethers, Christmas parties/ holiday parties, and family events.
Some of these events can cause tension and discomfort for family members. For some people, family events can spark a lot of worry and anxiety. So we’ve made a list of a few things not to ask with some suggestions of alternatives. While we believe that some of these comments are often well-intended. They don’t often come across that way. Intention and impact are not always the same thing. So if you want to make others feel more included and comfortable and respected, have a think about what you might be saying, what you might be asking and how that could make the other person feel.
Some general things to get you started include letting the person know it’s really great to see them and that you’ve really missed them. Perhaps you were thinking about the last time you were together and you can say something positive about that interaction. Maybe you can ask about a recent trip that they’ve been on or something you’ve heard that they are planning on or working on.
Any question that may cause someone to feel pressured, uncomfortable, self-conscious or judged is one to steer clear of.
Below are our top 6 questions NOT to ask.
Have you lost weight/ gained weight?
While it can be tempting to say something like ‘’You look great! You must have lost weight.” Have you lost weight is not a compliment, and asking if they’ve gained weight is hurtful and rude. It’s not ok to discuss someone’s body shape, size, or other physical features.
Instead, try complimenting them on something else, try saying something like ts nice to see you, you look well, the dish you brought looks delicious, you’re such a great cook.
When are you getting a real job?
No one can tell you your job isn’t real. Asking a question like this is loaded with assumptions, pressure and can be downright rude. Questions like this can make someone feel bad about their choices or decisions, maybe they’ve been trying to change jobs and haven’t been able to get a new one. Asking this is not actually likely to have a positive change or to get them thinking ‘’you know what, you’re right. Maybe I should get a real job.’’
Instead of asking what have you been working on lately or what projects are you working on, have you been thinking about what you might do next year? I remember you saying you are really interested in creative arts, writing or science. Have you been pursuing any of these interests? Be curious and open-minded.
Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet? Or Are you seeing someone special?
These questions are loaded and full of assumptions. Asking about a boyfriend or girlfriend makes assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation and preference.
Maybe they are dating, but they’re not ready to talk about a relationship that’s fairly new. Maybe they’re going through a breakup and they don’t want to talk about it at a family reunion or at an event with a lot of people they hardly see. If you’re a distant relative or someone they don’t see often, it’s not likely they would want to share this kind of information with you anyway. Some people are quite happy being single and don’t feel the need to find a partner. Some people might really want a partner and find dating very difficult. Maybe they’re struggling with mental health issues or trauma. It’s impossible to know what that person is experiencing. Whatever the reason this question can be loaded with judgment and can invoke fear, anxiety, a sense of failure, or even sheer frustration. Better to avoid it altogether.
When are you getting married, moving in together etc
This kind of question makes assumptions about the progress of a relationship and can put unfair pressure on a person or it could be a reminder about something that maybe they’re trying to navigate as a couple. Really it’s none of your business. You can say you look really happy together, it seems like you two get along really well, it’s really nice to have (partners name) join us for moments like this.
When are you having kids?
Don’t ask this, it’s none of your business. This is an incredibly personal and private conversation. The couple may not want children, they might be debating whether they want children and want different things, they maybe have issues with fertility or miscarriage or a range of other things. It’s simply inappropriate to ask this question
Are you pregnant?
If not and they’ve gained a little weight this is rude, or if they are and are waiting to tell people you’ve made it really hard and likely embarrassed them. Maybe they are pregnant and haven’t decided if they will carry the pregnancy to term. Don’t ask this. It’s a deeply personal question and if someone would like to share the news of the pregnancy let them do it in their own time. If they’ve put on a little bit of weight this can be incredibly embarrassing and they’ll likely spend most of the event feeling crappy about themselves and avoiding you.
None of us mean to say the wrong thing but sometimes what can be a seemingly innocuous question can make a person feel really uncomfortable, judged or bad about themselves. Take a moment before you ask a question and think about the possible where is it could be interpreted. When in doubt simply don’t ask and try something more neutral, open-minded, and curious.