You may be looking forward to the extra time with friends and family over the holidays. Like me, you have high hopes that can get dashed as you slide back into old patterns of relating. It’s hard to break old habits. Resist the belief that things can’t change.
Take action to improve the health of your relationships. Here are my favorite strategies that can help you enjoy your friends and family more this holiday season (and any time of year). Each strategy can be applied to connection virtually (e.g. FaceTime, Zoom, etc.) and over the phone.
Strategy #1: Do Something New (i.e. Take a Risk)
I’ve been a party pooper. I’ve put down new ideas because it was a change from the past. It was my issue. Don’t succumb to your fears because of discomfort. Take a risk and do something new. Play a new game. Watch a new movie. Go bowling. Invite a strange guest over for dinner. Make a sweet potato pie instead of pumpkin. Take action, and mix it up!
Strategy #2: Be Generous
I’m convinced that you will reap what you sow. In other words, if you make an effort to be generous with your time, energy, and resources, you will benefit in the long run. The success I’ve had in my life has always come from a generous spirit. Find ways to add hope, and light, to other people’s lives.
Strategy #3: Open Your Heart
Be vulnerable by letting others know your struggles, challenges, and needs. Don’t weird people out, but share more than you would have in the past. Apologize for something that’s bothered you, even if it was from years ago. Tell your strange brother-in-law you miss him and ask for a hug (just kidding). See vulnerability as an opportunity to grow, not another way to get hurt. Trust yourself and let go!
Strategy #4. Focus on Positive Qualities in Others
You may have a tendency to focus on the negative qualities of difficult family members. Challenge yourself to identify three admirable qualities instead. Focus on what could go right vs. what could go wrong. This information could help on changing your thinking habits.
Strategy # 5: Really Listen
People know you care when you really listen. True listening means you formulate your response ONLY after you’ve understood the content of what others are sharing well enough to paraphrase it back to them, if asked. Great listening makes others feel loved and valued. The holidays are a great time to work on this wonderful skill to bless others.
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Strategy # 6: Lower Your Expectations
I’m a recovering perfectionist. Years ago, I started collecting old 7 Up bottles from the 1950’s through 1970’s. Why? These neat looking green glass bottles remind me that it’s OK to be a 7, on a scale from 1 – 10. I try to be satisfied when I can say in my head, “It’s not perfect, but it’s going well”. At the end of a family event, be happy if it was a 7. Here’s an eBook I created called 12 Life Balance Tips that can help.
Strategy #7: Be Curious
Here’s a challenge for you. Share nothing about yourself unless asked. Spend an entire event learning about others. Ask questions about hobbies, neighbors, friends, children, and whatever else you know they enjoy discussing. Come prepared to bring up topics, and engage them with sincerity. They will love you for this. You could use The Legacy Jar or our 50 Great Questions List for help with starting conversations.
Strategy #8: Have an Agenda, With Flexibility
Have you ever been in a business meeting that didn’t have an agenda? It was probably chaotic and lame. People like and need structure. Be flexible, but have some sort of plan. Get input from those involved and casually keep people informed of the plans.
Strategy #9: Ask for Help
People feel needed and loved when you genuinely seek their help. Teams grow stronger as they see how each person’s unique skills can benefit each other. Here’s an article on icebreakers for teams where I discuss this in detail.
Strategy #10: Be Assertive
Assertive, open, and honest communication is required in healthy relationships. Intentionally and calmly sharing how you feel, identifying why you feel that way, and asking for what you need. Use “I” statements owning your own emotions, rather than blaming “you” statements. Avoid language that puts people on the defensive like “always” and “never”.
Time with friends and family are opportunities for growth. You grow as you successfully resist the temptation to relate in unhealthy and habitual ways. Create new ways of relating this year that can last for years to come.
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