What to Say About Hot Button Issues at Holiday Parties

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Politics. Family drama. Taylor Swift’s boyfriend. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for awkward — and potientially disastrous — conversations.

We’ve all been there. Standing in a group of people, looking nice in our holiday best, politely nodding while eyeing the dessert table. Then someone says something completely ridiculous and the next thing you know you’re never talking to cousin Becky again.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way.

“In these situations, it’s best to remember that you’re not going to change someone’s way of thinking. They have their truth and you have your truth,” said therapist
Lori Gordon-Michaeli, LCSW. “If you just came to have a nice time, agree in your head to disagree and move on.”

Read: Making the Holidays a Bit Merrier >>

Gordon-Michaeli said it’s a good idea to prepare yourself mentally before going to the party and bring a coat of armor (not literally). “I imagine myself putting on an “Iron Man” suit that covers all my buttons so no one can push them,” she said. “When I get to the event, before I walk through the door, I notice my suit is on and I reaffirm that I can choose not to interact with conversations that I know won’t go well.”

To help everything go well during your gatherings, here are more of Gordon-Michaeli’s tips, tricks and things to say when confronted with hot button issues during the holidays and year-round.

When someone brings up …



Luckily we live in a democracy so we can all vote for someone we feel will do the best job. We don’t necessarily have to agree on everything — that’s why it’s a democracy. If the other person you’re talking to is very headstrong, it’s best to nod so they know you hear them — but don’t get into it with them — your opinion won’t be heard.

Try saying, “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and we can agree to disagree. That’s democracy.”

LGBTQ+ topics

LGBT gay pride rainbow flag


If Aunt Bertha can’t quite wrap her head around gender identity and sexual orientation, you can shut her down with a simple sentence. Say, “We’re a diverse society and we should all feel safe enough to live our individual truth.”

Conflict in the family

Hands of young and old women

iStock.com/kazuma seki

As my 92-year-old aunt loves to say, “Show up, shut up and wear beige.” This is my aunt’s favorite advice to give, and it works for all seasons and occasions. Basically, just blend in and keep your opinions out of the conversations and you most likely won’t get dragged into it.


Bathroom scale, measuring tape and space for text on white wooden floor, top view.

iStock.com/Liudmila Chernetska

If someone is pressuring you to eat or not to eat or making you feel uncomfortable about your body, it’s perfectly fine to tell them to mind their own business. If it’s happened before, say with a family member, it may be helpful to ask another family member to be a buffer. Speak with them before the event so they can run interference. Usually this will help.

Read: Thanksgiving Will Always Be Difficult For Me. Here’s How I Cope. >>

Your appearance

Bored sad girl at the party


Always say thank you, no matter what Aunt Bertha says about what you’re wearing. If it wasn’t a compliment, saying “thank you” makes the other person feel confused — and you keep your power.


100 new US dollar bills on black background


If someone approaches you about your finances, change the direction of the conversation. Compliment the host. Most people will get the hint.


hands in prayer formation


Redirect the conversation to the meaning of the holidays, wanting to get along and give thanks for all the good things in our lives.

Media bias

Scales with the words bias and facts


It’s always best to understand that you aren’t likely to change someone’s mind about a deeply rooted belief. But if you really can’t let it go, you can remind them that all news can be inaccurate or biased to some degree.

Disdain for your favorite celebrity relationships (I’m talking to you, Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce)

"Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" Concert Movie Poster,

iStock.com/Ogulakan Aksoy

This is one to shake off because you don’t want bad blood. But if you can’t resist, you could always say, “Why you gotta be so mean? I think it’s great that she might be finding her happy ending. Every one of us deserves to feel loved and give love.”

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