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The Art of Peaceful Holiday Family Conversation

The Art of Peaceful Holiday Family Conversation
Functional or dysfunctional, family gatherings can get rather stressful during the holidays. Emotions are high, everyone is together for the first time since last year, and Uncle Tom is drunk already. But it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience for all!

Family are by our side for our entire lives and can be a beautiful thing if we learn to live with their presence, from a point of understanding.

If you know someone in your family can, and will, go “there” accept this and you won’t be caught off guard. Get centered, take a breath, repeat a mantra of your choice for the situation. (Ex: “This is not a competition.” “I am a loveable person.” “I may not be understood now, but if I continue living my truth, I will be understood somewhere down the road.”)

Before you say anything, be mindful of your breath when you speak. Taking a moment to understand with compassion where the comment is coming from will make it easier to maintain control over your emotions. Change you energy and watch their energy change as well.

Here’s how to keep the peace at the holiday dinner table:

When are you going to get married and/or give us grandkids?

How to handle it:
Breathe. If you’re single, calmly say that you need to focus on getting to where you want to be before you bring anyone else into the picture - so that when the time is right you can settle down. If you’re in a relationship but aren’t ready to go “there” yet, simply say, “When we’re ready, we will make that kind of commitment and you’ll be the first to know. But in the meantime, we’re having fun trying!” A little humor is the best form of deflection and can lighten the mood.

How’s that job of yours? Are you looking for a better job?

How to handle it:
Your life is not driven by chasing paper. If the job you currently have is your dream job, don’t let anyone take that away. Offer highlights of something you’ve done recently that made you feel accomplished and leave it at that. There is nothing to be gained from defending yourself against someone who doesn’t understand or share your passions. Breathe. And then, wine.

So, where are you sending the kids for college?

How to handle it:
This may not seem like a feather-ruffling question right off the bat, but what your family member could be after is how much you’ve saved for your kids for college or if they will need to take out loans. If you’re not willing to go “there,” turn to you kids and say, “I don’t know. Depends on grades and what we can afford. How much have you got in your piggy bank, James?” This will show that it’s not a topic for serious discussion and again, the comic relief will be much appreciated. Personal matters are to be kept exactly that, personal.

You look...different than you did last year? What’s changed?

How to handle it:
While you may be screaming in your head, “I gained some weight ok? Lay off! I just want to eat my pie in peace!” there is a calm and easy way to handle this. You both know you’re a bit bigger around the edges, it’s obvious. But rather than go down that dark and dreary road, you can say you’ve just had your haircut or are wearing a new shade of lipstick or you went to the spa before coming. Deflect, deflect, deflect. Some people’s way of communicating is through passive aggression and you don’t need to play that game...not with your new holiday sweater on, especially.

While you deflect rude or hurtful comments to change the energy of the situation, it is important to remember that this comes from a place of mature understanding of the other's perspective and insecurities. Deflection is an alternative response to the reflex response of anger or defense.

Communication is an art form. While your family members may not be aware of this, you can take control of the situation and make the annual pilgrimage home less uncomfortable and more enjoyable for everyone gathered.

Have you had success with graceful responses to unpleasant comments at family gatherings? Share your experience with us in the comments!

Written by Morgan Garza
Morgan is a free spirit, world traveler and a lover of light. She loves to write about and research our inner healing power to help people realize their true potential. An avid practicer of yoga and meditation, Morgan is continuously evolving. She encourages all of us to follow our dreams by taking that first step into the unknown and truly practices what she preaches.
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