Question Of The Day

We Asked People How They Navigate Awkward Holiday Party Conversations

“A glass in hand, always.”
Holiday party conversations awkward

Holiday parties often lead me to awkward conversations with people I barely know or have tried to avoid throughout the year. To save myself from looking like a total grinch, I’m left with no choice but to engage. But after giving a few head nods and fake laughs, I usually throw them off with a holiday joke and search for the nearest diversion so I can make a smooth exit.

I’m sure this happens to many people, who stand around uncomfortably as they struggle to navigate a conversation with a weird uncle, boring cousin, or too-enthusiastic old friend into something easier to digest.


So in order to prepare everyone for a wave of holiday parties, we asked VICE readers: How do you survive awkward holiday party conversations?

Lex, 25

VICE: How do you survive awkward holiday party conversations?

Lex: A glass in hand, always. I take sips when they ask weird shit, then offer them a drink when they press.

Johnny, 33

VICE: Can you tell us how you save yourself from an awkward holiday party conversation?

Johnny: I guess my starting point is to make the awkward person relax. It's probably that they’re awkward, or I'm awkward, or we are both awkward. So the earlier we can recognize the situation, the less either would have to struggle to find a social persona to fit into. Most times, I find a warm smile and a big heart helps. If you come out with compassion for everyone, you'd probably do the right thing in any situation.

christmas awkward

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.

Alejandra, 28

VICE: How do you survive awkward holiday party conversations?

Alejandra: Whenever someone says out loud “this is awkward,” I just say “I don’t think anything is awkward, but you make it that way yourself,” and usually, people have an immediate response. Whether short or long, it leads to a good conversation. If they say they don’t know what to talk about, I ask to talk about cheese. They either like it or laugh about it and it breaks the ice.

Sharifah, 16

VICE: Any interesting stories from initially awkward conversations?

Sharifah: It varies between different people I talk to. Like sometimes, it can be about how our lives are a mess. Or maybe talking about the environment or gossiping about friends, school, and work. Sometimes, it’s even flirting with each other (which gets really hot).


Natasya, 22

VICE: Any interesting stories from initially awkward conversations?

Natasya: After the awkward introduction and small talk, we somehow managed to find a common topic — travelling, which led to me sharing about how my parents accidentally left me behind in Yosemite National Park during one of our road trips. It was winter and I was only wearing a hoodie and jeans.

christmas party awkward conversation

Photo by Inga Seliverstova from Pexels.

Anastasya, 17

VICE: Can you tell us about an awkward holiday party conversation?

Anastasya: I am a student who graduated from senior high school in 2019, but for some reason, I applied for college in 2020. Most of my friends applied for college this year. When the holidays started, we met and talked about our experiences. While we took selfies, ordered fried rice, and talked about the past, my friends started talking about their college experiences.

It got especially awkward when they started bringing up student orientation period and how their lives were in their respective cities. I felt so insecure because I haven’t been to college yet. I felt so sad and wanted to go home to make it comfortable for everyone. I had to study all day to get into my dream college.

Sam, 28

VICE: How do you survive awkward holiday party conversations?

Sam: If it’s really just an awkward situation to begin with, I just say, “Anyway, it was nice seeing you, I hope you have a great holiday,” then bounce.

VICE: But what if you have no choice but to engage?

Sam: When they say something critical, especially if it’s a boomer talking about my weight or my status in life, I always bite back. I let them know that I’m not going to take it. Small talk doesn’t have to be rude.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Cover photo: Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash