7 Ways to Have a Smooth Family Gathering for the Holidays

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Do you have that one relative that always insists on talking about politics? On a family dysfunctional meter, would you rate yours high? Is there stress in your family due to a broken relationship? Did a cousin marry your ex and they plan on being there? Are you an introvert and gatherings are just plain exhausting? If you answered yes to any of these questions, here are 7 ways to have a smooth family gathering for the holidays.

  1. Mentally prepare. Remember the hot buttons of others and avoid pushing them. A once or twice a year gathering isn’t the time to go to battle about whether or not our last president did a great job. Also, think about your own hot buttons. Plan ahead on how to handle it when you feel your blood pressure rising.
  2. Pack things in advance. Who likes rushing around at the last minute? It makes for a stressful way out the door and you may forget something—creating even more of a headache. Having everything packed ahead of time will alleviate this. Also, if the trip is out of town, plan to stay in a hotel when possible.
  3. Don’t expect too much. Let’s face it, an elevated expectation of others can lead to disappointment. While you can control how you behave and respond, you can’t do that for others. Focus on what is within your ability and how you can make the time spent worthwhile. One great rule of thumb—try to see that everyone walks away from a conversation with you feeling better, not worse.
  4. If you are an introvert, don’t hide. Offer to run last minute errands, cook, sit with nana or walk the dog to get that much needed alone or quiet time. That way, it doesn’t look like you are purposely avoiding people or being rude.
  5. Transition from hot button conversations. If you find yourself in a conversation with a tenacious family member who seems to always go down an unwelcome and uncomfortable road to nowhere productive, divert them to another topic. Most people love to talk about themselves, so when they come up for air, ask them something personal. Whether it’s about their house, neighborhood, hobbies, career, etc., it will get them off hot button topics and onto themselves. You never know, they may prefer the shift in conversation. (If they circle back—see tip #7)
  6. Be compassionate and give peace a chance. Over time, people change; give the tough-to-love family member a chance to show you if they have. We all know there are certain people that you mesh with and others you just don’t and, quite frankly, you and everyone else may even try to avoid. Spend a little time with everyone if you can. Many times, just showing others that you care enough to listen, will soften their attitude or aggressiveness.
  7. Set up a code word or gesture. If you are a person who doesn’t know how to mingle or leave the party when you should because you think you may hurt feelings—have another trusted person do it. Your bf, spouse or other family member can look for the “code” from you as their cue to interrupt a lengthy conversation so you can “help with something” or tell you when it’s time to go by announcing “It’s getting late, we probably should get going.” That way people pleasers don’t end up spending the whole time talking to just one person or overstaying their welcome for the sake of others feelings. It takes the pressure off of you.

Hope this helps you during your next family gathering. You may want to give it a try at work functions or parties with friends as well. All the best!

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