For Americans, Thanksgiving is coming up very soon, and that often means a day spent with cousins, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers and in-laws. With such a large mix of people, conversations can sometimes go in…
For Americans, Thanksgiving is coming up very soon, and that often means a day spent with cousins, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers and in-laws. With such a large mix of people, conversations can sometimes go in uncomfortable directions.
One awkward topic that often comes up at family events is money. People will start talking about their purchases, their job or even their overall financial health, and such conversations can often be uncomfortable for others at the table.
Downplay your personal achievements or wealth. Don’t talk about how well you’re doing, how much money you have in the bank or anything like that. It can be perceived as a form of bragging, which can cause unnecessary conflict. It can also make you the target of relatives asking for loans or selling network marketing products.
Rather than talking about your own wealth or success, simply listen during such conversations, and only offer up modest and brief mentions of your own situation if prompted.
Avoid discussing your expensive purchases. With Black Friday and the holiday shopping season following Thanksgiving, many families will end up discussing big sales, their latest purchases and holiday shopping plans. This often turns into a subtle game of bragging about what purchases your relatives can afford.
This is another situation where you’re better off simply staying quiet and listening, answering only with modesty if you’re directly asked about purchases. Don’t mention gifts you’re planning to buy, either, especially if they’re expensive. If you need to discuss such purchases for some reason, keep the conversation to those who are directly relevant to the discussion and don’t mention it to the broader group.
When someone is talking about their financial struggles, redirect the topic with kindness. If someone is struggling financially, listen with seriousness and ask questions that demonstrate that you’re actually listening and care about the situation.
Don’t offer “solutions” that center around your relative having to take action and modify his or her own behavior, as that often comes across as preachy. Instead, just sympathize.
If you do wish to help that person, take them aside later and offer something directly to them one-on-one, such as volunteering to review their resume or offering to drive them to work while their car is getting fixed. Focus your help on services you’re providing, not things you’re suggesting they do or change about themselves. Unwanted life advice in response to a person’s difficulties is usually seen in a negative way, which is something you don’t want in a family situation.
Decline business offers or loans directly and decisively. If someone in your family comes to you asking for a personal loan, wanting you to get into a business with them or wanting to sell you something, politely and firmly decline. Business arrangements and client arrangements with family are typically difficult, especially when broached at an intimate family event such as Thanksgiving dinner.
If you are actually interested in what your relative is offering, suggest postponing the conversation to a later date when you’re in a close one-on-one situation without other family members present. Keep the focus on family today and let business arrangements wait until later.
Save specific advice-giving for one-on-one conversations. If a family member is actually seeking specific advice from you — or you’re seeking advice from a family member — move that conversation to a one-on-one setting away from the Thanksgiving table or general family gathering. Ideally, try to have that kind of conversation on another day entirely, so you can enjoy time with other family members during the event itself.
If you’re serious about giving or receiving advice, it’s fine to set a date, time and place for such a discussion, but keep the conversation itself away from family, both as a distraction and to avoid eavesdropping.
If you feel that it’s time to discuss estate planning, organize a meeting for another day. Don’t disrupt the holiday with a family financial meeting. Instead, agree to meet about finances at a later date, even the next day. Give people time to gather their thoughts and any necessary documents. It might be good to choose someone to run the meeting and have that person set an informal agenda of sorts.
Doing this lets everyone focus on family bonding now and financial-planning issues later when they’ve had time to prepare for those types of estate-related questions.
If you keep the focus on family, listen carefully to others with respect and kindness, and keep your own comments modest, you’ll usually find yourself in a good place when it comes to Thanksgiving financial conversations.