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How To Be Heard At Your Holiday Family Dinner

Written by: Dara Connolly, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The holidays are fast approaching and often these social gatherings come with anxiety-filled conversations. Not ready to discuss your job lay off? Worried the conversation will turn to politics? Is the person you’re dating or the fact that you are not seeing anyone a sensitive issue with your family?

If you are anticipating the same few people talking over you, being disrespectful, or bringing up sensitive topics this holiday, consider the following tips to politely handle them with grace and ease.

First and foremost, you want to take some time before the event to establish your “ground rules”. This can be done in a playful way. Let the person know that you look forward to seeing them and you cannot wait to discuss their vacation (think of a few conversation points ahead of time to steer the discussion). Let them know that you want to keep things positive, therefore there are a few “off-limits” topics. Be sure you mention these in a friendly but serious tone.

By addressing it in private before the event, we give the person a heads-up off our boundaries. Also, you are less likely to respond in the moment by quickly saying something you later regret such as, "Hey, you just cut me off again”!

Difficult conversations are best handled with people you know somewhat well. There is no single way to word it, but generally tell them you have noticed they have a habit of interrupting you or not paying attention when you speak, or arguing against you, and that it makes you feel frustrated or discouraged. Ask them to try to be more mindful about not cutting you off in the future. You will be more successful at calling people out for interrupting you when you use a pleasant tone, not a grouchy, blaming, or wounded one.

Be prepared for a range of outcomes:

  • Ideally, in a perfect world, they will apologize. They may vow to stop interrupting you in the future and follow through on their new behaviors. They may even go a little too far and be too solicitous or put you on the spot, "Hold on, Dara wants to say something about that. Let's all stop everything and listen at her", but that snarky phase should soon wear off.

  • They may apologize and vow to stop but slip back into their old ways before long. When this happens, you could gently remind them of the “ground rules”. If they are considerate about changing, they may be open to letting you subtly signal them every time they interrupt again. However, if they can't seem to stop cutting you off, you will have to decide if it’s worth getting a word in with them or letting it go.

  • They may turn it back around on you, "Ah, you just don't know how handle when we're all drinking and joking around." "Our family's just like that. You know you can't expect everyone to stop and listen politely", "You are too quiet anyway." "You take forever to get to the point!" ‒ Even though it can be hard to hear, try to consider whether this is feedback you need to consider. Even if you admit there are some things you could work on, emphasize you still deserve to be heard and respected and always stay calm in your tone.

  • They may defend their interrupting, "I get excited and want to chip in! I'm not trying to hurt your feelings. I just want to express my point of view." Try to explain you get they aren't being mean-spirited, but it still hurts your feelings and makes you feel disrespected.

  • They may be completely dismissive and blow you off. That could be a sign you need to start pulling back from the relationship ‒ even with family. Your actions will speak louder than words. If you don’t feel you are respected or heard in the relationship, you will want to set a boundary to separate yourself. Get up and sit in another chair, walk out of the room, end the phone call. You will want to limit your interactions with the person who is unable to change.

These are just a few of the many tips I can teach you on how to be more impactful and influential when speaking to be heard. If you’ve read my article, I’d love to hear from you! Reach out to tell me where you are getting stuck.

Then be sure to visit to access my exclusive club and access coaching to help you speak with confidence. And feel free to follow me on YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn, or visit my website.


Dara Connolly, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dara Connolly is the author of the new book Flip Your Fear and founder of PTC™– an award-winning confidence program. Dara was the ultimate juxtaposition – a Black-Belt martial artist and a lifelong timid wallflower filled with fear! She now helps individuals speak up with confidence and be more influential and impactful when speaking in front of an audience.

Dara is a TEDx speaker and nationally recognized expert in the field of confidence. She has been featured on FOX, CW, The Connect Show, The List Show, Dr. Laura, and other media outlets. Her latest book, Flip Your Fear is available on Amazon.



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