Communication Rebel Blog

How to Shut Up During the Holidays

During the holidays it can be incredibly difficult to shut up, hold your tongue and NOT take the bait when dealing with your family.

My mom had zero filter when it came to her mouth. She would say whatever was on her mind as it came into her head. The worst instance of this when I was was on my way to my 10-year high school reunion and as I was about to walk out the door, she asked:

Have you gained weight?


Censoring thoughts and shutting up

Know when to speak and when to shut up during the holidays

The holidays were no exception. In college, I would come home and our time together would go like this:

Day 1: Mom would say something hurtful. I'd be intentionally mean back  (hey, I am my mother's daughter). We'd stop talking to each other.

Day 2: We'd make up. Remember we loved each other. It would be a good day.

Day 3: Repeat of day 1.

Every stay was exactly the same. Until I finally learned how to shut up during the holidays.

Ask yourself am I helping or hurting?

When something is said that is unintentionally hurtful, before speaking take a deep breath and ask yourself if what you are about to say is going to help or hurt the situation.

Then take a second deep breath and ask yourself HONESTLY is what I'm about to say helping or hurting.

If it is designed to be hurtful, it's time to shut up and calm down.

Change the subject

All families have hot button topics. If you find yourself on one of those topics, it is time to change the course of the conversation. Don't engage just transition to a more pleasant conversation.

My mom and I both are music lovers. If I changed the topic of conversation to the Beatles, she'd gleefully follow along. It worked like a charm every time. Ob-la-di. Ob-la-da for the win!

Give up on being right

During holiday gatherings with the family, it's less important to being right and more important to maintain the festive holiday spirit. You don't have to be right. Being right leads the conversation nowhere except a big brawl.

During the holidays, being right falls on the giant of deaf ears.

I like to be right. I was a college debater. I love to prove my point and win an argument. This was not a good strategy to use with my mom. She also liked being right and argued a point like a world champion fighter. I learned that it was more important to maximize our happy day together, so I just shut up and appreciated our time together.

During this holiday season, just shut up and enjoy your family (or revel in the fact that the holidays come only once a year).

For a humorous (yet practical) take on this, I'd highly recommend reading Scott Berkun's “Eight Ways to Avoid Killing Your Family Over the Holidays.”

My final thought is relish these holiday moments. Good or bad. Difficult or easy. Fun or mean. Enjoy the time together. I miss you Mom – our fights – our makeups and our chats about the Beatles.

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  • Love your article and can relate on a personal level to your message. I have a rule of thumb for my own family – 4 day max. I love them, but 4 days is as much as I can handle and still manage to keep my mouth shut.

    • Michelle

      I had to institue that kind of a rule with my Mom too. 4 days was all I can do without going batty and driving her nuts too. I’m glad you can relate to this post. I think a lot of people can!

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