How to Handle Challenging Guests at the Holiday Dinner Table


The holidays are just around the corner…and so, too, are those few holiday guests who always seem to get under your skin. While we each have our own unique family dynamics, there are a few common classic personalities that many of us may face each holiday season. Here’s how to deal with them in order to keep the peace at your holiday dinner table.

The Holier-Than-Thou Vegan/Paleo/Crossfit Devotee

Be prepared is always my motto. Plan ahead, by texting or phoning guests, asking them about food allergies, as well as food preferences, such as veganism. If their particular food needs are not on your menu, they can easily bring along what they desire. That way, they’re contributing one of their special dishes to the holiday meal, and getting much-needed attention for being part of the team.

The Glued-to-the-TV Brother-in-Law (who never lifts a finger while all the women slave away in the kitchen)

Call for help. A secret in psychology is that when people help you, they like you better, because they’ve made an investment in you… and you must be worth it. Therefore, approach that relative with clear and precise instructions of what you need from him, and then make sure he follows through. Believe it or not, this can be a real bonding experience.

The Overextended Mom (your own mom — or you yourself!)

You have to meet someone where they are, and many times an overextended mom or relative is doing what she needs to do. So, it’s important to appreciate that, without creating any negative energy or controlling her behavior. You have to step back and accept your mom for who she is, and be gracious and say thank you… now you are both grown-ups.

The Surly, Doesn’t-Want-to-Be-Here Teenager

Don’t buy in to the teenager’s need for attention, and don’t invest any energy there. That will only feed the problem. When a teenager is manipulating or passive-aggressive, the best thing you can do is ignore her behavior. If her behavior escalates, a word to her parent should suffice. If you’re the parent, then you should be prepared for this behavior ahead of time, and put in place consequences for when it occurs. What you resist will persist.

In the final analysis, keep your sense of humor – and use sarcasm whenever possible.