One of the challenges during the holiday season for many people is to actually enjoy get-togethers with family, friends, and co-workers and avoid relationship disasters.
They get caught up in playing old roles and in old arguments before they realize what happened or they are so focused on “getting through the holidays” that they simply miss all the fun.
Here are a few stories to illustrate what we mean…
Getting triggered by what someone says or does can easily turn into a holiday relationship disaster.
Several years ago, Otto was at a holiday “business” party and had a conversation with a man he had just met. With the furor of a television evangelist, this man gave his views on a highly charged subject to several people, including Otto.
Otto found himself listening with the intent to appreciate and learn why this man was so passionately attempting to win others to his point of view about this subject. Knowing how he felt about this issue, Otto was open to listening to his point of view and understanding where he was coming from but wasn’t willing to be drawn into an argument because he didn’t agree with him. Instead, he calmly told the man that that was one way to look at the topic and the man seemed to soften.
When Otto was younger, in this same type of situation, he probably would have become angered by this man’s views and would probably have been much more invested in trying to change this man’s opinion to match his own. When he realized that the man’s opinion wasn’t budging, Otto would probably have walked angrily away and spent the evening seething instead of enjoying himself.
If you find yourself in one of those situations, we suggest that you listen to understand and stay open to the other person and don’t take their opinion personally. Be the observer and stay in your center. Find your inner sense of direction.
Another challenging holiday situation that can easily become a relationship disaster is what we call a “meltdown.”
We don’t know what you call them, but we’re sure you’ve had some experience with them at one time or another, possibly at the holidays. Meltdowns are when one or more family members just plain “lose it” and get out of control. One of the children in our family has these meltdowns on a somewhat regular basis, especially when a group of us get together.
During the last holiday that we were together, “Brian” experienced a meltdown but what happened was different from other holidays. His father did what most of us do when caught in the middle of one of these dramas. At first, he found himself going into his emotional pattern which is to react negatively to Brian’s outbursts.
What was different this time was that somewhere in the middle of all of the drama, his father was able to go within himself and allow Brian to have whatever emotional experience he needed to have. His father was able to not take Brian’s meltdown personally.
He went to the thought that Brian was frustrated and had a need that wasn’t being met. He talked quietly to Brian and asked him to describe what he was feeling and what it was he wanted-not what he didn’t want, but what he wanted. As Brian talked about his feelings and what he wanted, he calmed down and was able to rejoin the other kids and play in a very short time.
This incident is a perfect example of becoming emotionally aware in the middle of a tense, emotionally charged situation. Emotional awareness is the master key to having great relationships or anything else in your life that you want.
Think about the emotionally patterns that you go through when other people in your life have varying degrees of meltdowns. These could be people at your workplace, friends, family or your intimate partner. Do you try to “fix” their problem as you see it? Do you get angry and lash back at them? Do you become emotionally distant? Do you hide?
Take a few minutes and think about how you react in similar situations. We think it is crucial that we all own our own emotions, even when we can’t identify them. Sometimes we just don’t know why we feel the way we do and it takes some time to figure it out. But it is important to figure it out. It’s also important to allow others to feel the way they feel without also being sucked into their emotional vortex.
Brian didn’t know why he was so angry at the time of his outbursts. His father just allowed him to have those feelings without trying to fix it after he stopped himself from being part of Brian’s emotional drama. His father stopped himself from taking ownership of Brian’s angst–that somehow he was the source of all of Brian’s problems. He just allowed Brian to own his own emotions and encouraged him to talk about what he wanted rather than what he didn’t want.
We suggest that you “step out of” other people’s emotional dramas, especially at the holidays. That doesn’t mean being insensitive or unloving to others when they “lose it” but it does mean staying in your “center.” The important thing is to do your own work and allow others to do theirs.
Our last example of how to avoid a holiday relationship disaster concerns creating intentions .
One holiday, our extended family planned a weekend gathering of twelve people, all staying in the same house. Most of us believe in the power of intention and it certainly worked in this instance. The week before our get-together we made our intentions clear that the gathering would be a joyful experience.
Every time our thoughts went to what could go wrong, we changed our negative thoughts to positive ones. It really worked! None of the kids had meltdowns and we all stayed in a positive space.
If you doubt that this is possible, just try it.
It’s powerful in groups but just as effective by yourself. If you find yourself dreading a get-together this holiday season or a relationship that is not as you would like it to be, try to focus on positive intentions for the situation or relationship, rather than staying focused on the negative. We think that your holidays, your relationships, and your life with be filled with much more peace and joy if you do.
Here are some more tips for avoiding relationship disasters, having more fun and less drama during the upcoming holiday season:
1. Before any get-together and at various times during the event, bring yourself into the present moment. You can do this by reminding yourself of the date and where you are. This brings you into “today” and helps you avoid slipping into being who you were in years past.
2. Stop all that chatter in your head. Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next while the other person is talking or how irritating Uncle Charley is or all the things you have to get done. Instead, focus on listening, truly listening, to your friends, relatives and co-workers. Find out something new that you did not know about them.
3. If you get triggered by a conversation, take a few moments to quiet yourself and check in with what you are feeling in the moment, even if you have to go to the bathroom to take these moments of quiet for yourself. Breathe and get in touch with you. Set your intention that you are going to stay open to the other person and to understand his/her viewpoint and you will find that you are better able to make a connection and stay out of the old dramas.
4. Find something to appreciate about the family members or people who tend to “get under your skin,” especially at this time of the year. Believe it or not, if you find something positive about the person, your holiday experience will get better.
5. Sit down and play with your children, grandchildren or any other kids at the gathering and give them your full attention. Have fun! Even if there aren’t any kids at the event, focus your attention and intention on enjoying yourself and watch how your holidays become much more relaxed and joyful. Our wish for you is that you enjoy the upcoming holiday season and if you have the potential for relationship disaster, to try some of our ideas.
Permission to reprint this article is given as long as the above bio, including website link, is included in its entirety.