QUESTIONS about added pounds and romantic prospects (or a lack thereof) are part of a toxic culture “rooted in our nature to be friendly and sociable” and should be avoided during holiday reunions, a psychologist said. 

“The downside is we don’t respect boundaries anymore,” said Dr. Rea Celine Villa, a senior psychologist of Mind You Mental Health Systems, which provides mental health services. 

The chorus of offensive comments and questions — “You gained weight!” “When are you going to marry?” “Why is your child even taking that university degree? Graduates of that degree don’t earn much!” — can be attributed to a lack of skill in small talk, Dr. Villa said, citing the sociologist Bro. Clifford T. Sorita, who spoke about the Filipino fondness for uncomfortable personal questions as conversation starters with GMA News Online.  

While Westerners build rapport by referencing the weather, Filipinos go straight for the jugular and ask about intimate details, said Dr. Villa in the vernacular. 

“We try our best to build rapport with relatives, but it sometimes comes off as off,” she added. “We need to refine this method.”  

Individuals at the receiving end of these intrusive questions should deflect, diffuse, or decide to decline, and “respectfully agree to disagree,” suggested Dr. Villa at a Dec. 14 webinar.   

“Don’t be afraid to communicate,” she said, adding that family reunions can be marked by joy and humor without the meddling and gossip. — P. B. Mirasol