TV, movies, holiday stress – it all tells us that these revered holidays aren’t always all they are cracked up to be. Sometimes it’s because of the workload associated with the whole thing. Sometimes it’s because we surrender all of our own preferences in favor of traditions that got started by people we never even knew. Sometimes it’s because when we are with our family of origin, we all revert to being about 12 years old. Truth is, holidays can be complicated, and if we’re already having a tough time in any way, holiday conversations can be tricky.
For your use, I want to throw some phrases at you that might prove helpful.
- No, thank you. (you don’t have to explain your dietary restrictions and feel judged, just say no)
- I’m sure it’s delicious, but I’m fine.
- I really appreciate all of your hard work.
- That is an amazing table.
In the case of disagreement that is brewing but not openly hostile:
- That’s interesting. Why do you feel that way?
- What outcome were you hoping for?
- Wow. I see that totally differently. I’d never considered your approach.
- Thanks for sharing that with me; can I tell you how I see it?
- We agree on so many other things, I’m surprised we differ here.
In the case of inappropriate intrusive questions:
- Thanks for being interested, but I’m not really ready to talk about that here/now/at all.
- That feels like a super personal question to me. Can we talk about something else?
- WOW. Going right for the big stuff are we? I think I’m going to need a warm-up period.
- Committee’s still out on that one, but thanks for asking.
In the case of full-blown hostility:
- You seem very scared/angry/frustrated. I’m sorry you feel that way, but I don’t agree with you.
- That really hasn’t been my experience and if we can turn it down a notch, I’d be happy to share my perspective.
- I’m not sure you understand why that troubles me. I can explain it or we can drop this particular subject.
- “I respectfully do not care.” This a quote from Martha Beck.
Now, go forth. Do your thing, whatever that might be and if your holiday plans are NOT to your liking for whatever reason, I implore you to carve (like that turkey reference?) out some chunk of time in which you will do something you absolutely do want to do and that you will relish that time. You can be late. You can leave early. You can make your shower as long as you need to. The world will keep turning. The dinner will wait. Spend a little of that time on you – it will make the gratitude part of this whole shebang oh so much easier.