People say the darndest things. Especially at family gatherings!
Food and conversation are symbolic of meaningful connection. And because no one knows you like your family, things can be said that may not be said to just anyone.
Gossiping relatives don't intend to be hurtful, most of the time they simply get caught up in the feeling of comfort and confidence that comes from being surrounded by others who love and accept them.
When I think of a gossiping relative, it's never an image of me. But most likely all of us (myself included) have been challenged with a tense moment when someone says or does something at a gathering and you find yourself commenting about it later in the kitchen with someone else.
To understand if and when you may be falling into this trap, think of the conversations you have with family members.
Any of the above comments might be called lighthearted family banter, as long as this is all
that is said on the subject. But if the conversation continues,
additional speculations made, or hurtful comments evolve, it surely
falls into the gossip category.
Being cordial is the best way to get something off of the conversation
table. It is a tool of tact in gracefully changing the subject.
Keeping a situation from getting tense requires you to practice a version of tact. Keeping your response friendly, but raising the bar in formality while being polite, is what cordiality asks of us.
How does this look?
It could be suggested that getting things out in the open is good, and remaining cordial might prevent this. I say, honesty is usually the best policy, but family gatherings also require a level of tactfulness to go along with that honesty.
So when Cousin Helen approaches you at Thanksgiving with a hello and a hug, then pipes up, "Oh Marie, I was so happy to learn that you broke off with Tom, he was never good for you anyway," you can stop beating yourself up when the only reply you can choke out is, "Thank you."
That is one situation when an honest response would not work out very well. Just try and steer clear of Cousin Helen for the remainder of the day. Surely, she meant well.
As with most other events in life - a big presentation, a stage performance, a final exam - you might not want to go to a family gathering unprepared. Here are a few preparation tips:
No one loves - or spars - like a close-knit family. You may not always agree, you may say things that hurt or offend, and you may not see your family for a long length of time, but that doesn't mean you aren't connected to them.
Make the most of your family gatherings. Do what you can to dissuade gossiping relatives and let your love for each other shine through. After all, you are family.