Guest Speaker

Have a Peaceful Holiday Family Gathering! Really!

Is it your Mum’s stubbornness? Or is it your sister’s whining? Perhaps it’s your Uncle Desmond’s appalling table manners. Whatever the issue, you can have yourself a calm, happy, and inwardly peaceful holiday gathering this year. It only takes a few brief moments of mental preparation that will work, be refreshing and fun.

One, set your intentions to have a peaceful, fun, and warm gathering. Make cultivating holiday peace empowering for you this year. Whether your ridiculously opinionated cousin shows up or not, you can control the peaceful narrative.

Two, glance at the following magical bullet points. Use what you feel most comfortable with. You can go through this season with grace by using some or all of these. They truly work.

  • Pause and Breathe: when tension begins to rise, imagine a moment of pause. Count to 10 slowly. Encourage family members to take a collective breath. A brief pause provides a mental reset, preventing impulsive reactions and allowing space for thoughtful responses.
  • Use Humor as a Tension Breaker: imagine the power of laughter cutting through tension like a ray of sunshine. Humor, when used wisely, can be a powerful tool to lighten the mood. Share a lighthearted comment or story to shift the focus and bring smiles to faces.
  • Find Common Ground: envision a scenario where family members actively seek common ground. When disagreements arise, guide them to identify shared values or goals. Emphasise the aspects that unite rather than divide, fostering a sense of unity amid differences.
  • Take a Break if Needed: imagine a temporary retreat as a strategic move. Designate a “safe” chair or room if you wish. If tension escalates, suggest a brief break for individuals to collect their thoughts. This physical and mental distance can prevent conflicts from intensifying and provide an opportunity for reflection.
  • Implement Constructive Communication: think about a family conversation guided by constructive communication principles. Encourage "I" statements to express feelings without blaming and actively listen to one another. This approach fosters understanding, minimizing the likelihood of tension escalating.

You may need to use these yourself. In the heat of the moment, you may forget them if emotions run high. Give yourself a break. What matters is you intend them before the event, and you try them. That’s all you can ask of yourself. But you, as a “doer” made the effort and that feels wonderful if the others wouldn’t play along.

Just for fun, to fill your Holiday Bag of Tips higher, here’s a few more effective ideas. One or all of them will help you stay centered and grounded again, as long as you set those intentions for yourself ahead of time.

  • Give Your Full Attention: in a world full of distractions, true presence says a lot. Put away electronic devices during a discussion, make eye contact, and demonstrate that you are genuinely invested in what the other person is saying.
  • Practice Reflective Listening: after your family member has finished speaking, paraphrase what they have said to ensure that you have understood correctly. This not only exhibits awareness but also allows for clarification if necessary.
  • Avoid Interrupting: allow the speaker to finish their thought without interruption. This not only shows respect but also allows for a more natural discussion flow.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: encourage meaningful conversation by asking questions that go beyond yes or no replies. Open-ended questions encourage your family members to express themselves more fully.
  • Validate Emotions: recognise the feelings communicated by your family members. Even if you disagree with their point of view, acknowledging their sentiments promotes a sense of validation and understanding.

Finally, your peace of mind is in your own hands over the holidays. That’s exactly where it needs to be. By incorporating these tips into your holiday interactions, you can create a communication-rich environment that promotes harmony and strengthens the bonds that make the season truly special.


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