Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love

By Cynthia Hanson for Life & Beauty Weekly


Most of the year, it’s fairly easy to avoid the nosy in-law or the sister who keeps revisiting old grudges. But come the holidays, family conflict can give you heartburn before you even sit down to dinner.

“Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean everybody is going to change to please you. But there’s no need to be anxious about what’s most likely going to happen,” says Ellie Tesher, advice columnist and host of the Slice Network’s Outlaw In-Laws. “It’s better to think about how you’re going to react.”

Instead of getting upset or disappointed when you encounter family conflict, keep your sense of humour and resist the urge to zing those button-pushing family members with a nasty retort. “Humour is one of the great levellers of stress,” says Tesher. “Lighten up — it’s healthier for you and you’ll enjoy the meal more. Remember, this is one night.”

Try these strategies to deal with some of the most annoying types of relatives and avoid family conflict this holiday season.


The Busybody: “So, when are you going to make me a grandma?”

Smart Comeback: “We’re working on it, and you’ll be the first to know!”

Why It Works: “It doesn’t say ‘mind your own business,’ but it puts up a boundary that says ‘I don’t know and I’m not going to answer this question directly,’” says Tesher.


The Grudge-holder: “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the time you …”

Smart Comeback: “I’m so sorry; I had no idea it affected you that much! How can we get past this?”

Why It Works: “An apology is good, even if it isn’t owed,” says Tesher. “If someone is that troubled over something that doesn’t matter to you that much, just say you’re sorry.”


The Label-maker: “Look who’s finally here! I was taking bets on how late you’d be this time.”

Smart Comeback: “Yep, I’m the late one in the family. It’s great to see you!”

Why It Works: “I like that this response has humour,” says Tesher. “If the label isn’t too troubling for you, you can dismiss it like this. However, if you think the label is unfair, I would say, ‘You never know when you’ll lose your bet, because when there’s a good reason, I’m not late.’”

The One-upper: “So nice Nicholas got an A in biology. My Brendan just won the state science fair!”

Smart Comeback: “Oh, that’s great! He must be really happy.”

Why it Works: She competes in any way she can — and she’ll suck you into the no-win game of one-upmanship if you let her. “The One-Upper got what she wanted and you don’t give a darn — it’s perfect,” says Tesher.

The Political Opposite: “How could you have voted for that moron?”

Smart Comeback: “Let’s talk again in a year and see what’s been accomplished. But why don’t we keep politics away from the table today?”

Why It Works: It’s a reasonable way to avoid a heated debate. Really, though, “anything that ends this conversation is worthwhile,” says Tesher. “A political fight at a dinner party puts a lot of people off.”

Cynthia Hanson is a journalist who writes for many national publications, including Ladies’ Home Journal, Parents and American BabyShe is a frequent contributor to Life & Beauty Weekly.

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