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.