dinner-1733171_640As the days are getting shorter, and the holiday season is rapidly approaching, there are some people who dread the annual family dinner. In fact, I’d venture to say that each and every one of us has an Uncle Jake, or a sister-in-law Alice, who annoys the hell out of us. Am I right?

It seems as though we have only two options: avoid the annoying relative or confront the annoying relative. But, I’d like to offer up an alternative — and that is, to FAKE IT with your relatives.

My honest-to-a-fault friend, Kristin, would tell me that faking it is disingenuous. She’d tell me it’s the same as lying. And I don’t think she’s wrong. But in this case, maybe faking it is the nice, peaceful thing to do. I can also make a case for categorizing faking it as a form of stress management.

So here are some tips on how to fake it with your annoying relatives over this holiday season.

  •  When being subjected to someone’s opinion, listen politely for no more than one minute.  Then interrupt and say:  “You have a point.”  (Note, you’re not saying that it’s a good point.)  Uncle Jake will think you’re agreeing with him and then you’re free to move away.
  • If you’re asked your opinion (I know — rarely happens, but this is still a useful tactic), put on your biggest fake smile and say “Thank you SO much for asking, but I need to give this some more thought.”   Nobody will disagree with your brain’s own speedometer.
  • Fake a survey.  Smile as you interrupt your irritating relative and say, “Before I forget, I’m taking a survey for work.  What’s your favorite holiday movie?”
  • Try what I like to call the “Fake Smile and Switch” strategy.  It’s an oldie but a goodie, and there are many non-controversial yet current topics you can switch over to.  I suggest:  “How about that Game 7 of the World Series?” or  “What’s your favorite holiday tradition?”  The fake smile is mandatory.  If you smile while asking a totally unrelated question to Aunt Diane, she’ll never know you’re faking interest in what she has to say.
  • Fake sudden interest in what’s going on elsewhere.  Look away for a moment, find the kids, find the host, find the person sitting alone and, without explanation (but always with a smile), excuse yourself.   With fake urgency, say “I’ll be right back.,” and distance yourself immediately.



A holiday gathering is not the place to start an argument, finish an argument, prove you’re right, or prove someone else wrong. If that’s your intention, consider Plan B.  Call a Mediator and schedule an appointment.  I offer a free initial 30 minute consultation, and I urge you to advantage of it.