Many of us are gearing up to spend a bit more time than usual with various family members over the holidays. While some people are looking forward to the extra time together, for many, the prospect fills them with dread and anxiety. I don’t celebrate the holidays, but for me, get togethers with my family can often make me feel like I’ve missed the boat or was on an entirely different journey altogether.
Amidst all the angst over getting the right presents and the right food, perhaps the most valuable thing you can bring to a family gathering is your best self. In other words, to be patient, kind, compassionate and understanding. Most importantly is the ability to reduce, if not eliminate your expectations altogether. It’s having high or unmet expectations that often causes the most grief at family gatherings. Individuals may act out their well established roles, but if you reduce your expectations and have the ability let go, you’re less likely to rise to the bait.
Of course, no one should tolerate poor or abusive behaviour, and calling it out, as well as an apology is perfectly acceptable. But if you lower your expectations and stay open and unfazed, it creates pathways for family members to respond in a positive manner.
It may be a challenging ask, but what a difference to be able to come away from familial interactions without having said things your regret, and maybe even you’ll have bridged a gap that you didn’t think was possible. Never underestimate the power of active listening, without judgement or qualification. I think if you can listen in the silence, you will intuitively know what to say or do that can make things better. And by far, listening is the biggest gift you can give your family members this holiday season.
I often go to a monthly pub quiz, as I enjoy trivia and the chance to chat with people around my own age, which is the main focus of this particular Meetup group. Although the ethos of these aptly named groups is, in fact, to meet new people, there are many who want to be with the same team members each time. On this occasion, when I arrived, there were only two five-player teams with space, yet both contained people who, for whatever reason, didn’t want me to play with them.
So, I ended up joining with one other straggler and the event host, making up a diminished team of three, which I readily dubbed the ‘Mouseketeers’. There was none of the one-upmanship or cattiness (being mice?) that I’d experienced on previous teams and my two teammates couldn’t have been nicer. One of them was a repository of obscure bits of information, most notably curiously about military matters. So we worked together, discussed things, had a good laugh and a lot of fun. And, despite there only being three of us and our having made a few mistakes, on the strength of the tie-breaking question – we won the quiz! True karma indeed, David vs Goliath style. Even with the cold shoulder I got from several people on their way out, I still left the place on a high. I’d a lovely evening with two kind individuals, while absorbing lots of random factoids and surprising myself with the tid bits I pulled out of the recesses of my mind.
Trivia matters aside, the biggest question of the night is – how hard is it to be nice to people? It’s not necessary to love everyone, but some basic courtesy and respect go a long way. You don’t have to live with these people, but you do have to live with yourself and your actions towards others. Being mean to other people has the effect of rebounding onto your consciousness and eating away at your spirit, so you literally lose, as was the case on this night. Conversely, showing kindness to people enables our hearts to broaden and our worlds to expand into new experiences, and at times we visibly reap the rewards – a $25 gift certificate in this case. 😊