A Game Plan for the Holidays
Simple strategies for better relationships.
It’s fascinating to see how our values play out over the holidays. You can spend three hours deciding what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, and thirty seconds considering how to navigate family challenges.
This holiday season could be a blur of carbohydrates and anxious interactions with people who poke at your inner immaturity. Or it could be an opportunity to learn about how the family functions. A chance to bring a little more genuineness to a relationship or two.
Here are three things I’ve been helping people think about before they embark on their holiday odyssey. I hope they’re useful for you as well.
See the process, not the personalities.
When we spend time with family, we tend to focus on people’s annoying traits. Who’s the anxious one? The meddlesome one? The slacker who won’t help? Spending time with family is an opportunity for seeing the reciprocity in relationships. If someone is slacking, who’s overfunctioning for them? If someone is meddlesome, who’s not standing up for themselves? If someone is anxious, who’s trying to calm them down or not upset them? Who’s avoiding them?
So often the people deemed “normal” or “calm” are equal participants in the emotional process (the way anxiety gets managed). They’re just not the ones who get the anxious focus put on them. The more you can see the process, the better chance you have at being a little outside of it. You can spend time with family, but be less caught up in the rigid ways they function. You start to see ways you can manage your own anxiety without having to be responsible for anyone else.
Try to strengthen 1 person-to-person relationship.
Over the holidays, it’s easy to focus on quantity over quality. How many people do you get to see? How many days can you spend together? This is how we end up making duty visits that are more about checking a box than relating to one another. While it’s useful to be present for family events, consider one relationship where you’d like to be able to be more of a “self.”
Think of a relationship where it’s hard to talk about your interests, challenges, and beliefs. One where you tend to focus on other people or superficial conversation. Challenge yourself to dig a little deeper this season and not edit yourself so much. Challenge yourself to be curious about a person you might find boring or annoying.
Describe what you’re trying to pull off.
If you can’t describe what more mature functioning looks like over the holidays, then it’s impossible to level up. What wisdom could you fit on a post-it note? Do you have a a couple bullet points you could use to evaluate yourself? Here are some of mine:
Let others manage themselves.
Share what’s important to me, even if others are uninterested.
Focus on the quality of connection, not the quantity.
What good thinking are you bringing to the holidays? Leave a comment below.
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Here's a goal for us over-functioners - be the best calm observer in the room!
I’m am looking forward to a big family get together next week. My goal is to let people manage themselves and their own relationships. With siblings and adult kids, I seem to be the one everyone comes to with complaints and suggestions. (I’m a recovering over-functioner) I will be stepping out of the triangles.