We Are Family: Strategies For Surviving Your Family Gatherings – Part 1

Success is a journey, and in this case your success involves a trip to a family or friends gathering.  Oh, the horror!

Well, it’s not really horror.  It’s just a mix of a place, a group, and the interactions happening between everyone.

Here are some strategies to prepare for this, um, special time.  Like all moments in your life, it can be made more rewarding and enjoyable, at least for you.  So do your preparation with confidence and ability to put it into a better perspective.  Many of these strategies and tactics will apply to any situation in life: home, social, career, and in relationships. 

Preparation – starting off positively prepared!

  • In general, if you think in advance about possible events, and you rehearse your reactions to the events, then your mind will more easily use the reactions you plan to use.
  • Think about positive stories you can share with people: times from your lives together in the past, or something you’ve done this year.
  • Anticipate the negative: If you’re reading this, then you may have had some negative times in your family gatherings.  Before you go to an event, it helps your mind to rehearse for how you might handle what will happen, positive and negative.
  • Types of negative comments: accidental, purposeful, and defensive.  Yet, treat them all the same: as accidental comments that shouldn’t cause you to shift your focus or your enjoyment.
    • Commenter: “You’ve gained some weight, haven’t you?  Ate too many pizzas this year?  Ha ha ha!
    • Commentee (you): “You must have mistaken me for someone else.  I’d like to know how your life has been since we last met up.” (but, it’s okay to think “what a jerk!“, at least for a few seconds.)
  • Practice makes perfect.  Everyone is ”out of practice” for these types of family gatherings.  So our reactions may be unnatural… not authentic.  And other people may also have wobbly moments.
  • Everyone wants to feel good about themselves and their lives as they live the moment.
    So think now, in advance, how to react to people who seem to want to drag you down a bit. Smile, shrug, and suggest a new topic (i.e. move on to neutral topics).
  • What if you mess up?  Ever made a snarky comeback that you wish you hadn’t? Well, it’s okay to apologize, or to let the argument not escalate by saying “you win” if someone tries to keep the exchange going.  You’re there to practice and improve making family gatherings successful for yourself.
  • Look at the big picture:
    • It’s only a few hours (or days) – a very low percentage of time for your year.
    • You can’t change people, only your own reaction.  So work on yourself.
    • You can learn from every encounter, and get to know yourself and others better.
  • We adapt to situations, and so you will… prepare to adjust to the possible wierdness for a few hours.  Just you don’t sweat it like everyone else!

(Part 2 will be posted shortly)

About Paul Worsham