Huffington Post – 6 Conversation Starters For Actually Meaningful Catch-Ups With Relatives

Holidays are about family, friends, and connection, but knowing how to do this without touching on delicate nerves isn’t always easy. It can help to be armed with a few conversations starters that avoid sensitive personal or political topics, especially when you haven’t connected in a while.

Huffington Post asked me to weigh in on some ways to break the ice, and I was pleased to help.

To read the full post, click HERE.


It can be hard to know what to talk about over the holidays with relatives you haven’t seen in a while.

Ideally, you want to bring up topics that are lighthearted but still meaningful ― something that can be challenging for many people, said Alicia H. Clark, a psychologist in Washington, D.C.

“The trick is to ask about something interesting without going too shallow or too deep, while avoiding topics that can get dicey,” she said. “Thinking about topics you’re interested in ahead of time is a great way to prepare for a mutually stimulating and interesting conversation.”

Below, Clark and other therapists share six conversation starters to bring to the table this holiday season.

“What’s new since the last time we talked?”

It’s OK to ask general questions at your big family gathering. Asking what someone has been up to lately gives your relative the opportunity to lead the conversation and share only what they want to share, Clark said.

“This gets people talking about themselves, which most of us like to do,” she said. “Make sure to listen attentively, ask for elaboration where it makes sense, and look for a place to offer something about your life that relates.”

“I have to show you this funny video.”

You’ll inevitably be on your phone at some point during evening. Turn that into a good thing by showing your family something funny or cool you saw online recently. (Know your audience, though: Maybe don’t share your favorite esoteric meme page with your grandma.)

“Thinking about funny things is a great way to keep it positive and give you and your relatives an opportunity to laugh, which is something that’s well known to facilitate bonding and good mental health,” Clark said.

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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD