There’s nothing better during the holidays than spending time with family. Then again, there’s nothing worse during the holidays than…well, spending time with family. Does this bittersweet appraisal ring true with you? If so, then relax and enjoy a well-deserved chuckle, knowing you’re in good company according to writers for Popular Science.
Still, some of life’s greatest joys only come when we’re around those with whom we share the closest bonds. So in this post we’ll look at four ground rules for avoiding discord. Use them to help keep things harmonious when hosting your holiday get-together.
Rule One: No Generalizing
Generalizing is one of humanity’s worst traits. It expresses itself whenever people make broad, sweeping statements based on a handful of examples. Here are some forms it can take in a family setting:
“Joan is irresponsible. Look at how she totaled her last car!”
“Greg is no genius. Remember that D he got in high school algebra?”
“Terry is a dreamer. Remember that time she wanted to go into acting?”
Everyone has foibles, of course. But the holidays are for focusing on what’s good inside all of us, not the opposite. Remind your relatives of this fact before they gather together under your roof.
Rule Two: No Name-Calling
We tend to dislike those who are most like us, according to an article in Atlantic. This may explain why some of the nastiest exchanges can erupt between family members, who are so alike it’s scary sometimes. But you don’t need a medical degree to recognize that name-calling never makes a situation better. So outlaw this nasty habit from the outset.
Rule Three: No “Nos”
Few words in the English language can stir up as much discord as the simple “no.” This is certainly the case when used in a heated discussion: “No intelligent person shares your views;” “Your husband is no good at all.” Not only is this use of the word “no” bad manners, it’s also bad thinking. If your guests must debate each other, then encourage them to see both the good and the bad in the other’s perspective. This can keep an honest disagreement from degenerating into an ugly uproar. It may even help to mend fences between estranged persons.
Rule Four: No Scapegoating
We all stumble at times. Even successful people make their share of boneheaded blunders. Henry Ford pioneered the auto industry but clung to outdated designs long after his rivals adopted better approaches. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos poured a fortune into developing a cellphone line that lost the company $170 million. Yet, while nobody thinks of Ford or Bezos as failures, the fact remains that mistakes and shortcomings can sting. One way people try to muffle this pain is by blaming a convenient scapegoat, as in the following examples:
“I could have retired in comfort if Aunt Sally hadn’t cashed in the savings bonds.”
“My son would be rich if your brother hadn’t talked him out of selling his invention.”
These are the stuff of which endless quarrels are made. We suggest banning them from your holiday gathering.
Dealing with family members can pose formidable challenges for those in recovery. Here are ways to respond when someone brings up your past:
- Refuse to discuss the addiction issue. If someone brings it up, let them know you’ve made a firm decision about harmful substances, and say, “I’m clean now. That’s it.” There’s no need to say anything else. If the other person tries belittling or blaming you, then just repeat, “I’m clean now. That’s it,” until the person drops the matter. This powerful assertiveness technique can stop attempts to shame or manipulate you in their tracks.
- Walk away. There’s no law that says you must endure another’s bad manners, even if the person has good intentions. Anything is better than letting others drive you towards relapse.
Playing host to a group of not-so-perfect relatives can make anyone anxious. But using the tips in this post can give you the self-assurance to handle any situation with grace and confidence. Think of them as our gift to you this season. Happy holidays!