Goal: How to Make Family Gatherings Enjoyable

Family is great. Community is crucial to individual growth, and family is the first place communal stability is provided.

On the other hand, family can be a great source of pain, dysfunction, and boredom. Despite this, we should do our best to navigate familial relationships, especially at boring family events.

There are many family events, from weddings to casual get-togethers. Even if you are extroverted, such events can lack engaging or exciting conversation. The people are boring or refuse to engage with you meaningfully. In such a scenario, you may feel trapped at a boring family event, and it’s crucial to understand how to thrive in such an environment.

My post will cover the techniques I’ve used to keep my interest during these events and the benefits such techniques have brought me.

Through my advice, I hope to help you survive these events and eventually learn to enjoy them.

Table of Contents

  • Understanding the Challenge
  • Strategies for Navigating Boring Events
    • Acknowledge the Reality of Boredom
    • Cultivate Curiosity
      • Engaging Conversations At Family Events
    • Find Moments for Solitude
    • Steer Clear of Negative Influences and topics
    • Set a Clear Exit Strategy
  • Thriving at Boring Family Events
  • Actionables

Understanding the Challenge

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy

Although family is an obvious positive, the familiarity of family introduces laziness. Why? When we are obligated to do something, such as associate with family, we see a lowering of standards.

This lowering of standards is why your parents are comfortable yelling at you but not at their neighbors. Since we do not choose our families, this lowers our responsibility to become high-quality people. A business owner has to provide the best service, or he will lose your service to someone else. Your father does not have to be the best because he will always be your father.

On the flip side, seeing as many families are a source of good, we must look to the individual. We are not immune to being boring. Your family could be perfectly charitable, gracious, kind, and enjoyable. However, we might not find familiar events enjoyable for our taste. We should set aside our pettiness and accept we are the boring ones refusing to meet our virtuous family members where they are.

My advice works because it doesn’t help you survive the family event by being annoying, dismissive, or arrogant. You have to navigate family dynamics skillfully. Instead, I focus on engaging with others in sincere and meaningful ways.

Lastly, I used the term bland deliberately. When I say boring, I mean the cousin who gets loopy when drunk or the dad who only wants to tell fishing stories. I’m not saying you should navigate a family event full of abusers. I assume your family is primarily good people who are a little dull. You want to find ways to engage with them instead of dreading every party as another loss of time.

Strategies for Navigating Boring Events

family is good

Family should be a source of stability and greatness.

Do you want to combat boredom at family gatherings? The strategies I  provide below will help you find interest in family reunions. Use them well, and you will find yourself enjoying family get-togethers.

Acknowledge the Reality of Boredom

First, we must always acknowledge where we are. You are bored at these family events. Why do you think that is?

I want you to think about this to understand what needs to change. The boredom at the event could show something more profound about yourself.

For example, you may be bored because you have projects to complete and don’t want that work disrupted. Or, you may notice you’re frequently bored around others. Maybe events aren’t really your scene, and you’re pretty introverted. These are all things to consider.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Do you usually feel bored around other people?
  • Do you feel that others engage with you enough? How are you engaging with them?
  • Are you listening when other people are talking to you?
  • Are you busy with multiple things that you need to do?
  • Which family members do you dislike talking to the most? Which ones do you like talking to? What are their personalities? How do they converse with you? What do you like about them?

Questions like these give you better insight into your feelings and thoughts. We want to avoid the default conclusion that every family event is boring. There could be more bubbling under the surface.

Cultivate Curiosity

“Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.” – J.K. Rowling

Time and again, the best way I’ve survived boring family events is curiosity. Developing curiosity is relatively straightforward: you must explore everything you don’t know.

When we believe another person will bore us, we fulfill the prophecy. Instead of giving up, we should ask family members about their lives, days, and events. Dig deep. Keep asking and asking, making an adventure out of each question.

For example, let’s say you have an uncle who tells outlandish stories. These stories don’t seem real, so let’s reel them in. Here are some questions to consider:

  • “That’s an interesting story. Why do you think you’re always involved in these things? Do you think it’s fate or your personality?” (Notice the use of the word “fate.” Never be afraid to bring supernatural ideas or elements into your questions).
  • “Do you enjoy any of the adventures you’ve been on? Did you think they seemed too good to be true?”
  • “How has your life changed over the years? Has having kids or growing older made these adventures harder to do? Why do you think that is?”

Notice you don’t challenge the validity of the stories. You’re asking about his mindset, what he thinks drives these tales, and how they come into his life.

Engaging Conversations At Family Events

I have other general questions you can ask people about their hobbies, desires, and life events. These questions help deepen connections are family gatherings. You aim to be curious and discover what you can about the person you’re talking to.

Here are some examples:

  • “That’s an interesting hobby. Why did you get started in it? What are your plans for it? How does it help you mentally?”
  • “That’s an interesting story! Have you told many people? I haven’t heard anything like that before, and I think others would find it just as entertaining/funny as I did.”
  • “I’m sorry to hear things didn’t work out. Is there anything you need, like a drink or a distraction? Maybe you can tell me what you did last night.”

Lastly, as controversial as it may be, you shouldn’t shy away from religion or politics. Showing the same curiosity and engagement can bring stability and patience. I strongly suggest never bringing them up, but if they are discussed, you can navigate the topics with the same curiosity and level-headiness as before.

Additionally, you must make other people curious about yourself. This involves answering questions with detail and gusto. When someone wonders what you’ve been up to, don’t just give a weak answer. Give it some flare!

Some examples:

  • “How is life? Well, it’s been a weird couple of weeks…”
  • “School’s going well, but I could have sworn I saw something I wasn’t supposed to…”
  • “Well, I went on this date. I didn’t think it would work out, but midway through, I came up with an idea…”

Just a reminder that I’m not telling you to lie. I’m advising you to drive other people’s curiosity. Inventing fun openers will keep you entertained as you talk at any family event.

Find Moments for Solitude

If you’re more introverted, I suggest finding a quiet place. Being alone and away from the crowd can give you a recharge to keep communicating with others.

You can easily pull this off by going to the bathroom. Time yourself so you’re not gone too long. But there’s nothing wrong with taking a break from the constant communication.

If you do a great job of being curious, you will likely draw more attention from others. Sometimes, the attention is overwhelming. So, take a break before going back out in the fray.

Steer Clear of Negative Influences and topics

Given the nature of family, there will always be weak individuals. These individuals will drain the fun from any event. Either they’re emotionally draining, manipulative, catty, or petty. Weak individuals love bringing the dysfunction no one really wants.

The first suggestion is to avoid these people. Weak individuals are resource wasters. The less time you spend around them, the more you can focus on enjoying the event.

If you must interact with them, then keep it brief and short. Turn off the charisma. Be as direct and concise as possible. When you see an opening, remove yourself from these people. Never be openly hostile to them, but never accept any abuse.

Remember, I’m looking at an annoying cousin with bad politics who always talks too much or an uncle who gets a little sloshed and always asks for money. If you are looking at a physical or mental abuser, then leave the event. Families should not tolerate abusers within their midsts.

Set a Clear Exit Strategy

Lastly, you always want to have a firm exit strategy.

It doesn’t matter why you want to leave. Don’t lie or make an excuse. Your time is valuable. You’re staying for an hour, and that’s it. You need to go when that hour arrives. What do you need to do? You need to go home, work on your projects, and progress in your life. And yes, these things are more important than the event you are at.

Setting a clear deadline creates a sense of control over the situation. You determine how long you will remain; this power gives you more confidence. Your attitude will improve when you commit to leaving at a specific time because you have to anticipate.

Thriving at Boring Family Events

“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career.” – C.S. Lewis

If you receive very little value from attending family events, even after implementing my techniques above, you may need to question why you go. If little value is derived from attending, you may consider skipping or not attending future events.

However, I do challenge you to try and enjoy these events. What’s great is the advice I laid out also works for other “boring” events like networking or work gatherings.

Focusing on thriving during these get-togethers makes you more exciting and compelling. You become more relaxed, and talking to people becomes more effortless.

So, get out there and implement these techniques. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to survive any boring event when you Become an Individual.

Actionables

  1. Your Life Presently – How do you feel about family events? Do you feel you are gaining something from going to them? Have they always been a struggle to get through? Or do you feel your age and growing responsibilities make these events more of a burden?
  2. Favored Family Members – Which family members do you enjoy the most? Why? What do they do for you? How do they talk to you?
  3. Dislike Family Members – Which family members do you dislike the most? Why? What do they do to you? How do they talk to you?
  4. Cultivate Curiosity: Next time you’re at a family event, challenge yourself to learn something new about each family member you talk to. Prepare a list of open-ended questions in advance that can spark engaging conversations. Questions like “What’s something exciting you’ve experienced recently?” or “Have you picked up any new hobbies?” can open up interesting dialogues.
  5. Navigate Conversations Wisely: Reflect on past family gatherings and identify topics that led to discomfort or conflict. Make a mental note or list of these topics to avoid. Instead, think of three positive and meaningful topics you can discuss that will likely engage everyone. This could include recent family achievements, upcoming family events, or shared memories.
  6. Selective Engagement: Before attending your next family event, set clear intentions for engaging with different family members. Identify those with whom you wish to deepen your connection and the weak individuals you want to avoid. Plan how you can gracefully transition away from negative or draining conversations.
  7. Share Personal Stories: Consider a couple of personal stories or experiences you’re comfortable sharing. These stories should highlight your interests, challenges you’ve overcome, or happy memories. Sharing personal stories can make you more relatable and open the door for deeper conversations.
  8. Offer Help or Collaboration: If a family event or project is coming up, offer your help to a distant relative who’s involved. This could be anything from planning a family reunion to working on a communal family history project. Collaborating on tasks can create a natural context for conversation and bonding. Assisting others also helps build your community with good and competent individuals.

Please remember it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.

Refer to the linked articles and studies throughout this post for detailed evidence and case studies supporting these views.

*Image credit to Unsplash.