How to manage hurtful comments from family and loved ones

Christmas bells have gone silent, and just like that, another holiday is around the corner! Chinese New Year songs are now filling the air.

Any festival comes with its fair share of family gatherings and meeting of the extended family. If you’re an introvert, these holidays might induce some anxiety over the need to socialise with people you meet once a year. While the mood is typically filled to the brim with festivities, food and laughter, we all know a few relatives who seem to make every gathering a game of comparison, boasting and off-handed remarks (you can see the kind of comments that are typically made here).These comments may rile us up – we are, after all, only human.

Let’s look at some tips on how to manage comments that may be hurtful during this season.

  1. Deflect the conversation

At times, our loved ones may invade our personal space by asking uncomfortable questions. Such questions can be deflected by either changing the subject or changing the direction of your response.

For example: “You seem like you gained some extra weight.”

You may respond: “I am trying out a healthier diet plan” or “That’s alright; I am thankful that I am healthy and well.”

If you’re quick witted (unlike this writer), you may want to crack a joke to lighten the situation and to avoid providing a substantive response. This gives you time to plan an answer should you wish to address the question, or to simply allow the conversation to move on.


  1. Avoid responding to unpleasant comments

If deflecting does not work and, for example, a loved one passes a remark about your appearance or your personal life, simply give a polite smile and walk away.

Minimal or no response is one of the most effective ways to shut down a conversation. It also makes the maker of the remark uncomfortable, and hopefully will serve as a signal to him or her that such comments are not welcomed by you.

We must remind ourselves that it is unnecessary to justify our actions or decisions when we are not comfortable. As the saying goes: “Ignorance is bliss”. Thisn empowering statement to remember when faced with overwhelming comments – no reason not to practise ‘active’ ignoring to achieve aforementioned bliss!


  1. Remove yourself from the situation

It is important to step out of a conversation that drains you. If the hurtful comments become too personal (such as “you are already 35, why are you not married?”), remind yourself that there is no need to continue to stand (or sit) around.

Take time-outs for yourself to breathe and refocus your thoughts. Excuse yourself by saying you need to use the restroom, join another person for a chat, or simply enjoy your own solitary time while visiting. You may even try feasting on snacks – you can’t talk when your mouth is full (although that might create other problems down the line!).

Understand that the comments thrown at you by others do not reflect who or what you are; try not to let it spoil your day!

Our loved ones usually mean the best for us. However, at times, they may unknowingly pass comments that may seem intrusive or hurtful to us. Always remember that these comments do not determine who we are, and should not affect our self-worth. Happy visiting!

This article was written by WhiteCoat’s Mental Wellness Programme partner, Annabelle Psychology. Click here to find out more about how you can teleconsult with mental wellness professionals on the WhiteCoat app.