How To Make Conversation with Distant Relatives Over Christmas

Christmas is a time for the whole family to come together. But sometimes, seeing distant relatives is an arduous task. If small talk isn’t your forte – or theirs – this guide might help keep the conversation flowing with relatives of all ages…

The Best Questions For Elderly Relatives 

  1. What stage in your life have you enjoyed the most?
  2. Which Christmas day has been the best? And what has been the best present you’ve ever received?
  3. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
  4. Did you have a favourite job?
  5. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

The Best Questions For Kids

  1. Who are your friends at school? What are they like?
  2. What are your favourite subjects at school? Are they the ones you’re best at?
  3. What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you have any other ideas?
  4. What did you do for your birthday this year?
  5. What films have you watched recently?

For Everyone Else

  1. Where have you been on holiday this year & what trips do you have coming up?
  2. Do you see yourself in the same job this time in a year?
  3. What have been your 2019 highlights?
  4. What is the best thing you have read / watched / been to this year?
  5. Are you making any New Year's resolutions?

Parents are usually happy to chat about their children too, so get ahead by showing an interest in their little ones’ lives:

  1. How are they getting on in school?
  2. Is there anything they’re showing a talent for yet?
  3. What are their favourite hobbies or extra-curricular activities? 
  4. How do you entertain them in the school holidays?
  5. Are your children more like you or your partner?

And If All Else Fails…

One of the oldest tricks in the book, if chat around the dinner table is really starting to fade, try a game of Would You Rather. Offer to start by suggesting something along the lines of:

  1. Would you rather live in New York or Paris and why?
  2. Would you rather travel 50 years back or 50 years forward in time?
  3. Would you rather only wear heels or only wear trainers for the rest of your life?
  4. Would you rather miss a flight or lose your luggage?
  5. Would you rather give up cheese or chocolate forever?

If Would You Rather fizzles out, consider asking relatives what they would do with special powers or a chance to do something they never thought possible. Here are some ideas to get you started:
 

  1. If you could be a character from any book, which character would you be?
  2. If you could move to any country tomorrow, what would it be?
  3. If you could travel back to a certain decade, which would it be?
  4. If you could change places with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
  5. If you could see one movie again for the first time, what would it be and why?

And Finally, Remember These Three Golden Rules…

01

Stick To Open-Ended Questions 

There’s nothing worse than asking a question which has a simple yes or no answer. It means people on the other side of the conversation get away with monosyllabic responses. A good rule of thumb is to pick a topic which lends itself to follow-up questions. Even if poor conversationalists come back with a one-word answer, it’s easier to keep things moving on. 

02

Learn To Listen

The art of good conversation goes both ways. It’s ultimately fluid, which means no matter how interesting or insightful the question, the direction of the discussion depends on the other person’s response. Rather than steamrolling the chat, learn to really hear what the other person says – it’ll probably give you some handy ideas to let the discussion evolve naturally.

03

Steer Clear Of Landmines

We live in controversial times and although tough subjects all have their place in a healthy social debate, Christmas and distant relatives probably aren’t the right time or audience. If possible, try to avoid: Brexit, the #MeToo movement, vaccines, fertility or abortion laws, global warming, diets and weight, asking how much things cost, wills or inheritances and past grievances.

Still feel like you need a little help? SL loves these handy conversation starters from Talking Tables – perfect for ages seven and up, it’ll help see you through all those family get-togethers this festive season.

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