Navigating Family Events

Last year, we shared guidance on how to navigate family events when some family members may feel it’s their job to ask you all the uncomfortable questions in a judgy way. Though that guidance still applies to the upcoming holiday season, there’s a new factor we need to consider: the impact of COVID-19.

Family events will take on a whole new look and feel this year. For some of you, this may be a gift. You don’t have to find an excuse to get out of a family function, or be worried about finding yourself stuck at the dessert table with creepy Uncle Bob, or find yourself stuck answering questions about why you’ve changed jobs three times in the last 3 years from your self-righteous Aunt Sally. These see-you-twice-a-year family members are likely not going to make the cut for many of the family functions that do still happen.

But for the family that is still gathering, there is almost undoubtedly going to be some tension about how each person interprets COVID-19 guidelines. For example, you may feel it’s important to always wear a mask, practice social distancing and stay outside as much as possible. Your mother may think masks are ridiculous but she practices social distancing and your brother may think the entire thing is a farce.

How do you navigate a family function when you all disagree on what the proper protocol should look like?

Here are our three tips to help you navigate family events in the time of COVID holiday:

1. Define your limits. We talked about this in another post about rethinking the holidays. Defining your limits is about creating rules for you and your family, and knowing how much you’re willing (or not willing) to budge. Though family members are often our toughest critics, it frequently comes from a place of love, so though you may not all agree all the time, they should be open to hearing and respecting what you are and are not comfortable with as it relates to how you want to celebrate the holidays this year. After all, your limits are for you to define, not them. Be able to explain why you have created your limits. This will help you and them better appreciate the thought behind your choices. So, define your limits and share them so everyone can be on the same page.

2. Control what you can control. You’ve shared your limits and you’ve been told the event will happen within those limits. But when you arrive, you realize it’s far from what you’ve been promised. A small gathering of 10 has turned into a party of 50. No one has masks and the party is inside a small house where social distancing is not possible. What do you do? You have two choices: 1) go to the party and operate within your limits (wear your mask, keep your distance as best as possible, stay outside as much as you can) or 2) you can respectfully let the host know you aren’t comfortable staying but you’ll be in touch to reconnect at another time.

Both of these options has the potential to be calm and thoughtful or loud and angry. It’s your choice. You control what you can control.

3. Accept that things will be different. Yes, you may get challenged on what you decide for yourself or how you may need to respond to the situation in the moment. I have always found that approaching any situation from a positive and grateful way gives you more options to consider, and helps you deliver your comment or actions with grace and care. You may not agree with the rules of the family for the holiday and therefore decide not to attend, but you can appreciate that you differ, respect their perspectives and hold fast to your own while still caring, loving and supporting each other.

Take Action
Holidays can be tough because of the magnitude of traditions and expectations, but remember this: we have seen how adaptive and flexible we have been this year. So many things this past year have made us rethink what we do. It is time to apply this approach to our holidays with a commitment to first stay safe and keep the people we love safe, then to celebrate the things we celebrate at this time of year. Let people know your rules for yourself and others and be respectful of others’ rules for themselves.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Little Moments of Remarkable

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Rethinking the Holidays

Last year, we shared guidance on how to create a stressless holiday, one that is fun and relaxing for everyone. After all, holidays are like a Dickens novel: they can be the best of times and the worst of times.

And though it may feel like the holidays are still far into the future, many of us are already feeling anxious. Consistent with how life has been in 2020, there are so many questions with few answers, especially as we start thinking about what the holiday will look like. After all, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. How safe can it really be to see and celebrate with family? Can we do it? Should we do it? How do you tell Aunt Sally that you’re not hosting this year and she won’t be invited in if she shows up? How do you tell Uncle Bob that he didn’t make the cut for the small gathering you are having? How do you tell your parents to put their masks on when around the kids or they will be asked to leave?

Here are our three tips to both rethink the holidays and keep them as stressless as possible.

  1. Set ground rules. These are your guardrails, your rules, the lines you will not cross. You create these based on what you’re most comfortable with, regardless of input from those who are not part of your immediate family (i.e. the people who live with you). So, for example, if you decide you will not host a party this year, or attend one, you do not let peer pressure change your mind. If you decide to host a party but all attendees must wear masks unless they’re eating and they will be socially distanced at that point, those are the rules that must be followed. (Side note: Consider sharing the rules or expectations of your guests before they arrive so that everyone is aware and, if they cannot or will not comply, this gives them the opportunity to politely decline the invitation).
  2. Get people on the same page. Once you’ve identified your rules and expectations, get your family and friends on the same page as you. There is nothing more important in this new approach to the holidays than being completely transparent in your communication. That means if you choose not to attend a family function, you clearly explain why. If you choose to attend but with restrictions, you explain why (and what that looks like for the attendees from your household). Your rules and expectations may be different than others, and for that reason, you need to inform your family and friends where your comfort level is with holiday events. It is your responsibility to keep yourself and those you love safe. Be clear about what behaviors you expect of friends and family members.
  3. Create new traditions. Everyone has been talking about the “new normal” we live in after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and this will obviously have a significant impact on holiday activities. Very few family traditions will likely still be able to be experienced in the same way this year, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t be celebrated and enjoyed. And see the opportunity here, as well, that there is the chance to create new traditions. After all, traditions have to start somewhere. Get creative with how to celebrate remotely or locally. Consider a holiday house light competition that allows others to drive by and visit from a distance. Or, have a holiday mask party in lieu of an ugly sweater party and have all masks be homemade holiday designs. You have seen others do remarkable and creative things around other celebrations like birthdays, weddings and graduations. Holidays are just another opportunity to get creative with your celebration and focus on what you have instead of what you don’t.

The holidays this year will look and feel different, but it doesn’t need to either be an invitation for anxiety and worry or a time to feel disappointed or shortchanged because it is different from what you normally do. Any time change arrives, commit to using it to build something better. Consider how this holiday season can be the best one yet because you do the things that matter in a way that keeps the people you care about safe.

Take Action
Your ultimate goal for the holidays should always be to enjoy the season, to make the holiday happy, safe and less stressful. So define your rules and expectations to ensure that will happen for you. Be clear and confident in the decisions you make. And be present to each moment, however it shows up to you.

If you’re struggling to define your rules and expectations and what you want the holidays to be like this year, consider using our Solve Anything Process

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Holidays are Coming and You Still Have to Work at Home

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Know Your Limits (Guardrails)

We talk a lot about discovering, developing and using your unique strengths to have the life you want. It’s so ingrained in the way we coach that it’s written right into our title! And by making the effort to know yourself – your strengths and liabilities – you also create awareness of your limits, something we refer to as your guardrails. Your guardrails help you identify the edges of what you consider acceptable.

For example, if you value authenticity, you encourage yourself and others to be who they really are. So, when you see others being manipulated to be or act against their own values or beliefs, it challenges or triggers you.

Notice the word trigger. Though it typically has a negative connotation, when you have great self-awareness, it becomes an opportunity. You may be triggered to move toward action. Your opportunity exists in the action you choose: do you respond or do you react?

Responding is an intentional action. You’ve thought about the situation and your possible responses and picked the one that you think makes the most sense for the situation.

Reacting is immediate with little or no thought to how to make the situation better or any unintended consequences that may result.

I think your guardrails fall into three buckets:

  • Physical – you are aware of your health and physical condition and identify what is acceptable and not acceptable for you. You may want to run a marathon but until you are fully aware of your physical abilities, you won’t know how to wisely train or to recognize (read: admit) there may be another more appropriate activity.
  • Mental – you are aware of what you will put up with and not put up with in the way friends, family, colleagues and strangers treat you. Being aware of this helps you manage your response(s) so you can intentionally choose how to respond in any situation.
  • Personal – you are aware of who you are, and what you want and don’t want to have a happy, successful and responsible life. Being aware of this helps you to choose your response to any situation more intentionally and wisely.

Understanding your guardrails gives you clarity in a world that challenges you to make yourself fit, a world that sometimes pushes things on you that are different than what you want for yourself. But to successfully leverage the clarity your guardrails provide, to understand how to recognize your physical, mental and personal limits, you need to properly define your guardrails. Consider your values and beliefs as a starting point; they are there to help you maneuver through life.

Take Action
Make a list of your guardrails. Start by considering your values and beliefs – what you consider acceptable behavior for yourself and for others. Now make a list of your triggers. Ask yourself what’s happening in your world – whether on a large scale (national or global) or local scale (family, friends or work) – that makes you feel angry, frustrated or sad. Notice where those lists overlap. Where do you find your values and beliefs are challenged and how can you make a greater effort to intentionally choose your response to generate a more productive outcome?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Learning How to Be Self-Managed

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