Celebrate Togetherness, Not Resentments

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When we get together with family, especially during this hectic time of year, we often find old childhood hurts, feelings, and reactions popping up. We regress; we even lose some of our identity as independent adults. The end result is that a holiday that is supposed to be a celebration of gratitude, fellowship, and giving becomes an ordeal.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few quick hints to help you enjoy, rather than suffer, through that holiday get-together:

• Relax, and remember – it’s about fellowship, connection, and fun, not about perfection.
• Look for the positive side in everything. There is always a positive side.
• Don’t say anything negative to or about anyone or anything. It won’t help or change the situation, and will just make things worse.
• Don’t bring up politics, religion, or any other controversial topic that can lead to arguments.
• Bring along some little thing (A photo? A piece of jewelry? An emergency stash of chocolate?) to remind you that you are successful, creative, resourceful, and all grown up. And that you can act like it.
• Limit your alcohol intake; it loosens tongues, ethics, and discretion.
• When you’re in a conversation, listen to what’s being said instead of planning what you’re going to say next. Focus your attention on the other person. (It’s a coaching skill, but you can do it, too.)
• Ask others about their lives; don’t hog the floor. Dust off your curiosity. Ask open-ended questions.
• If someone is hogging the attention, or the conversation, start a separate conversation with someone who’s looking left out. Work to make them feel better. You’ll feel better too.
• If you’re the host or hostess, plan, plan, plan! Do as much as you can ahead of time, even to setting the table. (You can do it as much as a week in advance, then just cover it with a bed sheet.) Ask your guests to bring a dish, or to help out in the kitchen. Giving people something to do is a great ice breaker and helps them feel included.
• If you’re a guest, offer to help! No matter what the host or hostess says, bring a little something: a small flower arrangement, after dinner candy (chocolate – of course – is always welcome, and mints are great), a bottle of wine. And don’t forget the thank you note, handwritten, later! It may be a pain, but it will make your hosts feel wonderful.
• Go around the table and ask everyone to say one thing they are thankful for. You might be surprised what comes up — and it can start the meal off in a wonderful, positive direction.
• Reminisce about the good times. I know there were some. How can you create more?
• Consider planning or suggesting activities other than eating and drinking. Play touch football outside or go for a walk. Bring a board game (yes, it’s un-cool) or work on a jigsaw puzzle. It’s much more fun to be arguing about landing on Boardwalk than old, un-resolved family issues.
• Finally, if you absolutely know it’s going to be pure hell, don’t go. You don’t need the aggravation, and neither does anyone else. Make reservations instead of having them.

Remember, the holidays are about celebrating, not about family therapy, old hurts or resentments. Leave those at home, and you’ll have a much better time. (To ensure that everyone is on the same page, why not forward them this article?)

NOTE: You’re welcome to use this article online in electronic newsletters and e-zines as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the “about the author” info at the end). If use of this article is desired in printScience Articles, you must first contact Lynn Cutts at Lynn@ManageYourMuse.com.

Copyright 2004 Lynn Cutts

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