Holiday Tips: How to Deal with Your Toughest Critics (i.e. Your Family)
Are you eagerly awaiting your family holiday event? Or are you dreading being stuck in the same room with “those people” for an extended period of time?
If the latter, you may find yourself bringing this unproductive mindset and emotion to every aspect of your life. Whether it’s work, your personal life or relationships, feeling anxious or frustrated can introduce a level of unintended hostility around the holiday season.
We put together a few tips to help you stay calm and enjoy the season, regardless of what family members (or other relationships) may do to test or challenge you.
1. Acknowledge you can’t control everything. You certainly can’t control a group of unique people, especially a group that, despite coming from the same background, have unique life experiences that have made each of them exactly who they are today. We aren’t supposed to be the same – imagine how boring that would be. And others aren’t for you to control; they get to be who they are. Instead, accepting each person is who they are allows you start to see value in their differences. The brother who knows a lot about investing. The sister who is running marathons. The cousin who has a different political perspective. The critical aunt that is actually just trying to helpful. Don’t try to control it – step back and try to see the value in others. When you do this, this same group of challenging people can become a group of remarkable people.
2. Change the topic. So, you tried to see your family as remarkable people and it isn’t working. They still argue and can be critical. One of the best ways to interrupt a negative exchange or interaction is simply to change the topic. People love to talk about themselves, so this can be a very well-timed strategy to ask great Aunt Polly about that time she met Uncle Paul. And if you ask an open question that requires more than a one-word response, it can create the space for a productive conversation that everyone can enjoy. Consider having some questions prepared that you can use to keep things more enjoyable.
3. You can leave. Okay, you tried to see the value in others. Then you used some redirecting topics to change the conversation. Nothing seemed to work. So remember: you have the ability to physically remove yourself if things start crossing a line, or, if you’re hosting, you can ask someone to leave. Spend some time with yourself to identify your triggers and where your line is. Keep your energy up, even if your line is crossed. After all, getting angry or feeling victimized can only lead to unproductive outcomes.
I think holidays were invented to bring us together – and to celebrate each other. Putting a group of people in the same room who come packaged with unique abilities, interests, beliefs and experiences, regardless of the reason, will not always work out. Though you can’t control them, you can manage yourself.
Remember: you choose who you want to be and how you want to show up to the moments of your life. Develop your techniques to help others get along. Celebrate when it happens. Have a plan when it doesn’t.
What is it about the holiday season you love the most? You dislike the most? These are important questions to answer before attending any holiday function as they can open your eyes to triggers that you may have overlooked. Prepare yourself for any holiday function by having a plan for them and a plan for yourself. Having a plan is key to making the most of every holiday.
Consider reading Expect the Unexpected to Make Life Better