Whether You Love Them Or Hate Them
This time of year there’s always some kind of family event looming in the near future. These are supposed to be warm, good times, but it doesn’t always seem to turn out that way. Are you often left wondering if it was a good idea to go? Dreading the next “fun” event? Many times family events are just laden with difficulty and stress. Maybe your extended family includes a few difficult-to-be-with characters that keep you from really relaxing and enjoying yourself completely.
What if–this year–you could approach the situation differently and possibly even change the outcome? You might even find that you enjoy these events, maybe even start looking forward to them. How would that be? The following five steps can help you plan and survive this years family get-together.
Decide to make a difference!
You really can make changes in how you personally handle the different situations that come up when you visit family. Imagine how nice it would be to enjoy your family’s company and really relax and have a good time with them. It’s a choice that you can make, one that will improve your own experience, as well as the experience of others around you.
Step #1 – Choose your own experience
This tip refers to creating an intention. You need to decide for yourself how you want your experience to be. If you are clear about what you want, then it is easier to make that happen. Ask yourself the following question, “How could we all benefit from the experience of being together?”
If your answer to the question includes having fun, having peace and harmony, and feeling more connected to each other, then you are on the right track to changing your own experience, and the experience of your other family members. You can make the next family gathering one that is fun and peaceful, and one that even leaves you feeling more connected to your family.
Ways to make these things a reality might include being more playful with each other, and less judgmental. When things start to become difficult during a family gathering, remember what your intentions are, and how you want it to turn out.
Step #2 – Remember this truth, each person is doing the best they can
This particular step is something you might need to continually remind yourself of. It’s hard when Uncle Joe constantly complains about everything, or when your mother picks and criticizes every part of your life. Imagine if these people knew better how to create their own intentions and have more fun and peace. Do you think they would behave differently? They probably don’t like it either. Can you see how their probably doing the best they can with what they know? It is up to you, and how you react, to change the situation.
Instead of getting upset, remind yourself they are doing the best they can. To change your experience it’s essential that you concentrate on creating the outcome that matches your own intentions. While this is more easily said than done, it is possible. How?
Step #3 – Remember to not take things personally
Again, definitely easier said than done, especially when it seems like a personal attack. People say and do ridiculous stuff all the time. But, we’re here tell you that the ridiculous things they say and do–unknowingly–are an attempt to experience what they value and has nothing to do with you, you just end up being in the way.
If your mother is harping on you for not settling down and getting married, she might be worried that if you don’t have a family and the emotional security that accompanies that you won’t be happy. She is probably “Doing the Best that She Can” and saying these things because she really cares about you. But, remember, this is about what’s important to her. Don’t take it personally!
When you hear someone say something that seems like an attack, instead of reacting defensively, take a moment to think about why they would say such a thing. Wonder what is going on with the other person, rather than how you end up feeling. Remember, you are creating your own experience.
Step #4 – Understand what they’re asking for
Family get-togethers can be upsetting when people are not sure about what they want and expect from each other. Not being sure about what others want or expect can leave you feeling quite confused and uncomfortable. Often this leads to you trying to defend yourself or your situation, or possibly even to give unwanted advice.
Change these situations by looking for some clarification. If your brother is constantly complaining about not having enough money for his rent, you can clarify whether he is just venting his frustrations, looking for you to help with networking opportunities for new jobs, or asking you to borrow some money. Sometimes asking the other person how you can help, and whether they are hoping you will just listen or actually do them a favor, can really defuse a potentially volatile emotional situation.
Think about the first three steps before you start asking for clarity. Remember your intentions, remember others are doing the best they can, and don’t take things personally. Then, make a guess or offer a solution that works for you. When your brother complains about his finances, you might ask him if he’d like you to ask some business owners you know if there are any viable opportunities. You may be right with your guess about what he wants from you, but even if you are wrong, it can open the door to a more productive conversation about his financial situation, one that leads to a more enjoyable interaction, and, ultimately gets you closer to your own intentions. Either way, this leads to less stress for both of you.
Step #5 – Focus on developing your ability to be grateful
When you focus your attention on something, it tends to grow. When you notice things that are unpleasant, then your pain and suffering will grow. When you focus on things that you enjoy and things that make you happy, then your happiness will grow.
This sounds simple enough, but it does take some work on your part. Plan to enjoy your family, then focus your attention on truly enjoying them. Focus on how delicious the food smells, or the funny stories that your uncle tells that make everyone laugh. These things will help you feel grateful for your family, and grateful that everyone takes the time to get together and stay connected.
If you follow these five steps, you will quickly learn that family gatherings can be fun and peaceful, and might even leave you thinking you are glad that you went.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season filled with love, peace and happiness,
Beth and Neill