For many of us, the holidays are the most stressful time of the year. Holidays represent a time when we can 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 arise when alcohol is involved. These questions can 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 may have low emotional intelligence, and as a result, miss important social cues. They lack an awareness of themselves and how they affect other people. This can set up problems, especially over the holidays.
People with low emotional intelligence 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?
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 their job. By asking this, others believe you don’t think a job is worth pursuing 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.”
Express genuine interest. Show people that it’s fine to be where they are now while showing interest in their aspirations, dreams, and passions. If the person is happy in their current work and isn’t pursuing any side projects, work to be genuinely happy for them.
#2: When are you having kids?
Emotionally unintelligent 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.
Hundreds of circumstances 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 could be actively struggling with the decision of 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 complete 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, so many circumstances contribute to someone’s weight status. They may be 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 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 incredibly hurtful and invalidating.
Further, it’s probable their weight hasn’t actually changed since you last saw them. Our body weight can fluctuate up to 6 pounds per day — which means 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 emotional intelligence, and there are so many other, more meaningful questions you can ask.
- “You are such a generous person.”
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.
#4: Why aren’t you dating/married?
Emotionally intelligent 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.