#2: When are you having kids?
For many of us, the holidays are the most stressful time of the year. Holidays represent a time where we get to reconnect with friends and family and update them on our lives. Unfortunately, this sets us up for awkward questions about what we have (or haven’t) accomplished during the year.
We all know the questions — the blunt, awkward, and direct comments that usually come out when alcohol is involved. These questions sometimes borderline on overstepping — and other times are so completely inappropriate it gives us whiplash.
What’s worse, is the people who usually ask these questions have low self-awareness, and as a result, miss important social cues. Clinical psychologist Karen Nimmo defines self-awareness as “the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively.” She also notes that self-awareness is crucial to building relationships and achieving success at work and in life.
People with low self-awareness ask prying, intrusive, and unhelpful questions over the holidays. Instead of asking to build relationships, they ask questions that make people uncomfortable and self-conscious. Here are five questions that unaware people ask over the holidays — and what to ask instead.
#1: When are you getting a real job?
People who are self-aware realize how their comments and questions make others feel, because they know how they would feel if they were on the receiving end.
There is so much judgment in this question. Asking this implies that somebody doesn’t already have a real job, or that they shouldn’t be happy with the job they have. By asking this, others believe you don’t think their job is a worthy pursuit just because of income or status. This simply isn’t true and it can push people away.
- “What projects are you working on these days?”
- “What are your aspirations at work?”
- “I’d love to hear more about your work and how you’re finding it so far.”
Make sure to express genuine interest. Show people that it’s fine to be where they are now, while showing interest in their aspirations, dreams, and passions. And if they are happy in their current work and aren’t pursuing any aspirations, approach that with a nonjudgmental perspective and work to be genuinely happy for them.
#2: When are you having kids?
Unaware people have no idea that others have different life circumstances. They ask questions assuming that everyone has the same timeline, goals, and ideas. This is very problematic, especially around the “kids” conversation.
There are hundreds of circumstances that lead to the answer to this question. Some couples, women, or people don’t want children. Others struggle with infertility or health issues that complicate the prospect of children. Others may be struggling with the decision around whether or not to have kids. Regardless, it is nobody’s business when or whether or not you are having children.
Nothing. Just don’t ask about kids. It’s truly none of your business.
If someone brings up the “kids” conversation on their own, by all means, act interested and ask follow-up questions. But unless that happens, just don’t do it.
#3: Have you gained/lost weight?
This question shows a total lack of awareness. Most people who comment on weight think they are giving a compliment, but appearance-related comments can actually be very harmful to self-esteem.
Similar to the “kids” question, there are so many circumstances that contribute to people’s weight status. It’s possible they are genuinely trying to gain or lose weight — but it’s much more likely they naturally gained/lost weight, have a health condition, found a new love for exercise, gained muscle mass, are recovering from an eating disorder, or maybe are so depressed they’re struggling to feed themselves. You have no idea. And praising someone for their weight loss (or gain) when they are going through tough circumstances is helpful for no one.
Further, it’s possible their weight hasn’t actually changed since you last saw them. Our body weight can fluctuate up to 6 pounds per day — which means that we may look or feel different just based on bloating, hydration, or the state of our bowels.
Don’t comment on other people’s bodies. It shows low self-awareness, and there are so many other, more meaningful questions you can ask.
- “I love how optimistic you are.”
- “You are such a generous person.”
- “I really appreciate your sense of humor.”
Be sure to tell the people you love that you love them not for their weight, but for the internal characteristics that make them special. If you need help coming with other things to discuss, here are 20 things to compliment instead of weight.
#4: Why aren’t you dating/married?
Self-aware people don’t ask questions starting with “Why aren’t you…” Anytime you ask this, you are implying that someone isn’t where they “should” be, and people’s immediate response is to become defensive. This sets the holiday up for frustration.
People have different timelines. People have different life circumstances. And people have different preferences. Assuming that all people 1) want to get married, or 2) are ready to get married, is egocentric and not self-aware.
- “Tell us more about the relationships in your life.”
- “Have you made any new friendships recently?”
- “How is your support system?”
The key here is to show people that you care about their well-being and want them to have relationships so they feel supported. Feeling supported is not dependent on a romantic relationship. We can check-in with relationships in a way that shows we are self-aware with these questions.
#5: How much money are you making these days?
Money is an extremely taboo subject in general. Of course, different people have different views on money — and yet, regardless of your views on money, it’s unhelpful to come out with awkward and blunt questions like this.
- “How is work going these days?”
- “What other positions/projects are you passionate about?”
You can certainly feel free to ask follow-up questions about promotions or room to grow in the company as they feel appropriate. But don’t just come right out and ask people how much money they make. Again, it’s none of your business!
The holidays mark a time when everyone is prone to receiving prying, intrusive questions from others — don’t be the person who asks them. Increase your self-awareness by asking other questions instead.
Self-aware people understand how their questions and comments affect others. They know how to engage in holiday talk that builds relationships rather than tears them down. To be more self-aware, ask about hobbies, general relationships, passion projects, and aspirations. Compliment others’ internal characteristics that make them special. With these self-aware questions, you can work to build strong relationships this holiday season.