The other day my friend Dayna (see her site here) brought up a great point about spending time with family this Thanksgiving. When you’re thrown into a family function with people you probably don’t see very often, it’s easy to start to tune out and wait for it to be over. And maybe drink heavily. But what would happen if you forced yourself to really get to know these relatives, especially the ones you may not know that well already? While family functions are not without their fair share of awkward moments and explaining why you’re not married yet, they can actually be really eye-opening if you let them.
As Dayna suggests, instead of zoning out as your Great Aunt Jean chatters on about her cats or her pumpkin pie recipe, why not engage her in a more substantial conversation? You may find that she had the career you’re lusting over, or that she traveled to a place you’re dying to see. Ask her about where she worked when she was younger, ask about her favorite places she’s traveled to, ask about the most interesting person she ever met. Once you get past the surface-y talk about how bad the weather is (completely crappy, we know) you may actually find out that you have more in common with your relatives than you ever thought possible.
I’ve realized that when you treat potentially uncomfortable social situations as a networking event, it makes it much easier to keep the conversation going and have an enjoyable time. You would never just let the conversation die as you’re talking with a potential new business connection. You find something you have in common and talk about it, while learning more about the other person. So when you stop accepting the awkwardness and make it a point to engage with your relatives, no matter how well you do or don’t know them, the conversation becomes much more dynamic. In fact, you may find that you aren’t trying to pass the time with a vodka tonic and a lot of cookies anymore.