Do you find yourself shy and uncomfortable sometimes even around immediate family members? I know I used to.
This past Easter, my immediate family got together for dinner (well, I include aunts & uncles as immediate, but I’m from Southern Louisiana, so maybe we’re different). We all had a great time and had plenty to talk about.
Funny because it’s so different from the way things used to be. In this post, I’ll share what I did so you can use the same techniques to feel more confident talking with your family too.
How things used to be at family get-togethers
In the past, family gatherings were torturous for me. But it wasn’t because of political debates or lifestyle disapproval. That might have been better, because at least that would have been something real.
No, I was stuck in a state of nothingness where I had zip to say. Mostly though, it was because I didn’t know about my family member’s lives and they didn’t know much about me. (I didn’t know much about myself either, but that’s an entirely different story…)
I just didn’t know anything to start talking about. But more sinister than that, I didn’t feel like trying.
So, what were my family conversations like this Easter?
Well, things are different now because of the points I’ll mention below.
- I talked with an uncle about the new concrete slab he had poured. I remembered he had been working on it for a while, so I asked his plans for it. It was going to be a new two-car garage.
- To an Aunt, I asked about her recent trip to Universal Studios in Florida. How was it? Did the kids like it as much as Disney World? Answer? It was interesting but the kids missed Mickey Mouse.
- My mom and I talked about her plans to switch careers.
- I asked my grandfather if he was still practicing his steel guitar and how that was going.
In all cases, I also told them about what I’d been up to lately: Working a lot on my internet business. Things my girlfriend and I had done with friends lately. Plans for the future…
Family time is great for catch up
See a pattern here? It was about discussing what’s going on in our lives. That was 80% of the conversation content. That’s something you can easily do.
You might be thinking you don’t know what’s going on in your family member’s lives. Well stick with me. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Besides the things mentioned above, each conversation took on a life of its own afterward and branched off into other topics. The magic was in starting the conversation.
Also, talking later in the day was easy because we had already broken the ice and just brought up topics from earlier.
We also talked about what was currently happening: The younger kids opening Easter presents or the irony of us deep frying everything we were eating including “healthy” cucumbers and cauliflower (that’s Louisiana for you).
5 solid tips to make your next family visit a breeze
- Know what’s going on in family member’s lives. You don’t have to know every detail of what they’ve been up to lately. But major things should be on your radar like my Aunt’s vacation or my Mom’s career decision. If you don’t know anything, call a closer family member and ask about the fam. That way you’ll have ammunition at the next family gathering.
- Bring up things they’ll be passionate about. With my grandfather, I know he loves playing his steel guitar. That was a sure-bet conversation starter with him. With one of my uncles, I asked about his kids. Most parents are pretty passionate about their children, so this is a good topic.
- Share what’s going on in your life. They are your family and they’d probably like to know. After all, if you listen to what they’ve been up to, it’s only fair to expect them to do the same. Besides, getting to know things about each other is how people grow closer.
- Add some emotion. Besides just the facts of what’s going on in our lives, it’s important to get to feelings and opinions too. I asked my Aunt how she and the kids liked Universal Studios compared to Disney. I shared my hopes and passion for my internet business. Sharing facts about your life is great but sharing your feelings about what’s going on is golden for connecting with others.
- Care. This is a big one. Probably one of the biggest obstacles that kept me from connecting with my family and easily talking was I didn’t have a strong desire to do so. Of course I cared about my family and wanted the best for them. But I was in such a selfish place, my social motivation focused on gain.
I felt there was nothing I could gain by talking to family. It wasn’t like I was talking to a cute girl who I could date or a potential new friend who would make me feel better about myself (which is the wrong reason to make friends BTW…). My family was there and would always be, so what more did I have to gain by talking to them?
Obviously this is the wrong way to think, but unfortunately many people approach conversations like this. If you look at the world and conversations based solely on what’s in it for you, then talking with others becomes stilted.
However, if you start caring about others and genuinely wanting to brighten their day, or truly enjoy the process of talking, then conversation begins to flow.
An added benefit to family conversations
As a final thought, you should look at your family as “safe-ground” to practice conversation skills. I don’t know your situation, but if you feel slightly more comfortable talking with family than a total stranger, use that to your advantage.
Try the new conversation techniques you learn on them. Practice is still practice and when you do get into uncomfortable social situations, you’ll have a better foundation of skills to get you through.
At your next family event, think fun, think caring, think practice. Find out what they’re up to.
Try using the suggestions above and let me know how things go. Post your comments below.