Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year. This is the time where everyone in your family is supposed to gather and be joyful and present each other with gifts that make you smile. You’re expected to show your gratitude for their thoughtfulness and cherish the deep conversations that are had.
Okay….we know the holidays are NOT always an amazing, magical, and joyous occasion. Many people stress about the financial toll of gifts and um... have you seen those gas prices? Or maybe they don’t get along with their in-laws or second cousin, twice removed. These are just a few worries for those that have family to celebrate the holiday season with.
The holidays can be rough! Most of the commercials show families that are happy with each other and having the best time! Holiday movies make us believe that everyone finds love by the end of Christmas day. Magazine covers will have you believe that Santa always brings you exactly what you need. However, in truth there are a ton of people that do not have anyone to celebrate the holidays with. The ones that do have a place to go, do not always end up leaving the festive party in a happy mood.
Getting together with people who may have a variety of different opinions can take a toll on our mental health. Choosing when to voice your thoughts, when to just accept the opinions of others or just to walk away is a difficult task. You may be expected to show your gratitude for their thoughtfulness in gift choices and cherish the deep opinionated conversations that are had….
The amount of daylight starts to decrease, the temperature drops, and we tend to see a decline in ambition to trek outside. Have no fear, a couple of our therapists - Jason Carrasco and Carling Mashinter have a few tips to help you navigate your way through difficult conversations this year. If you have not had a chance to listen to their podcast this month, I will fill you in on their suggestions.
They suggest that when a dispute arises, try to take a mental step back and ask yourself what your intention is. Is your intention to prove the other person wrong? If so, do you think that will be helpful for you? For them? For the relationship? How do you feel the other person may react if you dedicate your energy to proving them wrong? Do you find that the conversation is giving you some big feelings and emotions?
If you find that you are holding onto a specific agenda as in “I’m right and you’re wrong” then the conversation is going to become very combative. You will find that you are listening for times to prove the other person wrong. The other person may adopt the same way of interacting. It will be a back and forth of who’s right.
There is another option for these situations - embracing curiosity. Why not ask the other person, “why is this so important to you?” or “It sounds like this is significant to you, can you help me understand your opinion?” Jason and Carling encourage you to actively listen which will allow you to give a brief overview of what you heard. It is then helpful to ask the other person if you got what they said correctly.
Overall, it is important to listen, understand, and then validate the other person. After you have understood the problem, you need to empathize and validate with emotion. You can do this by saying “That makes sense to me that you would feel that way”. “If that were me in your position I would be just as upset”. Additionally, you may find it helpful to repair and apologize! You can do this by saying “I’m sorry that I made you feel this way. I know and recognize the hurt that I have caused”. If you are choosing to apologize, you must apologize for the specific hurt that you caused, not just a general apology.
Remember – listening, understanding and validating (and even apologizing) does NOT mean that you agree with the other person’s opinion. You are seeking to understand their opinion and experiences.
This is an ongoing process, and we can always improve on our communication skills. If you need more help, give this month’s Relationship Matters podcast a listen. It’s all about polarization and how to survive the holidays . If you need additional support, give us a call and book in a session with one of our therapists.
Wishing you a very Merry Communication!