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20-40-60 Etiquette: Grill the hamburgers, not me

What do you do when a family member, instead of grilling the hamburgers, grills you during a holiday get-together. 20-40-60 Etiquette answers, with “The Pioneer Woman” Ree Drummond as guest.
by Helen Ford Wallace and Lillie-Beth Brinkman Modified: June 15, 2012 at 6:20 pm •  Published: June 15, 2012

QUESTION: Every year, we attend a July 4 family gathering of about 25 people, and this year, the same negative aunt who always quizzes me about my life will be there. She always wants me to talk about my troubles. I don't know if she wants to ridicule me or gossip about me to others, but I always find myself telling my darkest secrets to her and wishing that I had not confided anything. How can I stop myself from talking so much and be polite to her in answering her questions? She is really good at digging out my problems.


Try to avoid her at all costs.

Make sure that you are always with someone so she can't corner you. Think before you speak.

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: We all know people like this, don't we? How they use the information we share varies, but the best way to handle the situation is to be ready for her when she approaches. After all, you already know that you have a weakness for telling your aunt in particular your darkest secrets.

Start by firing at her questions of your own about her life; have them in your mind before you see her. Asking about herself may help deflect her questions about your life and help you get to know her better. You could also avoid her one-on-one altogether, if possible, or only talk to her with groups of people around — with 25 people there, you can have many shields.

Whatever you do, be nice, friendly and ready for her barrage. You could even counter her questions with an answer like “Oh, I don't want to talk about that today. (So-and-so) in our family really seems like she's happy, doesn't she? Or, what do you think about our team being in the NBA Finals?” Answer generically and deflect her questions, and you should be fine.

HELEN'S ANSWER: Sounds like your aunt is a good interviewer and knows how to ask questions. When she continues to “interview” you, tell her “enough about me, tell me about you.” Since you obviously care about what your aunt thinks, remember to make her part of your conversation. If you continue to talk and tell everything you know, you cannot find out about her. Throw in a “what do you think?” every now and then.

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by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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by Lillie-Beth Brinkman
Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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