7 Strategies for Positively Engaging Family Members Over the Holidays

You Don’t Need to Dread the Holidays!

December 17, 2016 |

You may be looking forward to the extra time with friends and family over the holidays. Like me, you have high hopes then you can get disappointed as you slide back into old patterns of relating. It’s hard to break old habits. Resist the belief that things can’t change.

Prepare to get out of the holidays what you want rather than being blindsided and disappointed. Here are 7 strategies that can help you enjoy people this year.

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: Open Up Your Heart

Stop protecting yourself from getting hurt and start giving your heart away. 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. 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 #3. Focus on Positive Qualities in Others

You probably 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 #4: 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.

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Strategy # 5: 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 #6. Have an Agenda, With Flexibility

Have you ever been in a business meeting that didn’t have an agenda? It was probably chaotic and/or lame. People like and need structure. Be flexible, but have some sort of plan for each event. Get input from those involved, and make sure everyone is informed.

Strategy #7: Be Assertive

Assertiveness means intentionally and calmly addressing negative patterns of behavior by stating how you feel, identifying the situation that triggered that feeling, and asking for what you need. Use “I” statements owning your emotions, rather than blaming “you” statements. Avoid language that puts people on the defensive like “always” and “never”. Assertive, open, and honest communication is required in healthy relationships.

Family events are opportunities for personal growth. You grow as you successfully resist the temptation to relate in unhealthy and habitual ways. Create new ways of relating.

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