The holidays are coming, and with the joy and cheer comes some stress. Families get together and there are those inevitable unresolved grudges, lingering hurt feelings, those testy relationships, the little dread around the recurring themes, and the “difficult” people. How to cope? Here are some tips to help you thrive and maintain healthy relationships during the holidays.
1. Remember, no one has changed anyone’s mind on politics, religion or anything else during these family conversations. It is possible to listen without countering. Maybe you could listen for what is right. It is possible to listen with curiosity; to ask more questions and to make it your goal to understand someone else, rather than to make your own points. It is possible to suggest not talking about the things that are triggering, and to change the subject to something easier. Maybe, save the hard conversations for a later date.
2. Separate the person from the problem. Maybe they made a snarky comment about your job search or how you raise your kids. This is a problem. What is said is a problem. The entire person is not the problem. When we label people as the problem, we make the problem so much bigger and also fail to recognize the positives in people. Try to pause and consider what is positive about the person and what you appreciate or admire about them. We all have our “moments”, some that we are proud of and some that we are not. We are human. No one is all bad or all good. It is helpful to look for the good.
3. Value the relationship over the issue. Think it doesn’t matter if you hold that grudge? Maybe not now, but there is no telling how it will effect the future. Think about the long term relationship and make sure your actions match up with creating the relationship you want. Relationships are built brick by brick. Sometimes a brick falls out. It is usually worth it to keep building.
4. Avoid comparisons. Whether it is seeing ourselves or others as having more or less than us, comparisons are dangerous. Very often, we are comparing others’ best with our worst, or our best with others’ worst. Remember, holiday moments are just a snapshot of each of us. Each of us has a story behind our actions and we don’t know the other person’s whole story. Comparisons lead to judgment and judgment leads to discord. Appreciation and gratitude are very good substitutes for comparison and judgement.
5. Be a role model. We are teaching by our actions all of the time. People pay very little attention to what we say and so much to what we do. Our children are learning relationships and how to handle conflict from us as well, so model the behavior that you would want for and from them.
We all step on each others toes, sometimes. It’s part of being human. When you are the stepper, you likely want understanding, and even forgiveness. These are great gifts to give and receive. Decide before an event how you want to show up. Decide who you want to be in the moment. Maybe you might choose to be kind, to choose humor over judgement. Maybe you will choose compassion. It might just change the outcome for you and your loved ones.
Holidays are legacy in the making. You have the power to influence the memory you help create. Wishing you and yours wonderful holiday memories.