Relationships are the doctoral program of life lessons. And nowhere is that more apparent than at the annual family holiday gathering (also known as the dreaded yearly oral exam).
Let’s face it, spending time with family can be tricky any time of year, but there’s something about the pressure of the holidays that can bring out the absolute worst in even the most loving tribe. For some families, holiday events are a masquerade ball with everyone straining to convey harmony while struggling to hide their apathy and antipathy. For others, they’re knock down, drag out brawls worthy of the mixed martial arts Xtreme Fighting Championships.
Looking for a little help?
Try some of these tips.
- Weigh the pros and cons. Clear your head, find a calm moment and decide whether it is best for you to attend or not to attend—that is the (first) question.
- Exercise portion control. Plan shorter visits for just appetizers or dessert.
- Refresh your memory. Reflect on the issues and dynamics that have proven your undoing at past events and plan a more constructive approach.
- Dig deeper. How do you contribute to the tension? Can you relax your judgmental mind and focus on understanding others’ points of view?
- Pay attention. Family rooted uncomfortable emotions can be easily triggered. Recognizing them quickly can help you deal with them more effectively and minimize the damage.
- Be gracious. Demonstrate respect and compassion for yourself and everyone involved.
- Seek to understand. Get to the heart of things by asking questions in a genuinely curious, relaxed, open, undefensive way. Read Sharon Ellison’s Taking the War Out of Our Words or Non-Violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg.
- Be patient. Real change—in you and your family members—takes time.
- Take care of yourself. If the atmosphere isn’t safe, leave. Gather with friends, do volunteer work or nurture, encourage and delight yourself—ALL ALONE.
- Call a friend. Regain your sense of perspective and much appreciated support by debriefing after the visit with someone you trust.
Author’s content adapted under license, © 2008 Claire Communications
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