How to Go Home for the Holidays Without Getting Sucked Under
By Paula Renaye
“Are you ever going to get married, dear?”
Can’t you just hear Aunt Edna’s voice, and the “you pitiful thing” implication that goes with it? What do you say to that? Nothing. Seriously, explaining is pointless. You aren’t going to change her mind and convince her you’re truly happy with your life just as it is, and anything you say will likely come off as defensive. Instead, try this technique for coping with the holidays, which I call the 3Ds–Dodge, Distract and Detour.
The 3Ds: First of all, let’s get one thing really clear. Just because someone asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it. And in the case of some people, the only reason they’re asking anyway is so they can gossip or brag about it later for their own benefit. Some people just can’t sleep if they aren’t the first with some juicy tidbit that others can ooh and ah over. Others elevate themselves by association in a “Leo DiCaprio touched my hand” sort of way. Whatever the case, don’t go there. Rather than playing the same old game, change the rules. It’s really easy once you get the hang of it, and in no time, Aunt Edna’s prejudicial prying can turn into a warm fuzzy moment just like this:
Aunt Edna: “Are you ever going to get married, dear?”
You: “Oh, aren’t you sweet to be thinking of me! That reminds me, when I was growing up, I absolutely loved your brownies. I always thought you made them just for me and I would love to get your recipe.”
Now, Aunt Edna may recognize that you have avoided her question, but she can’t gracefully go back to the dark side with you gushing over how wonderful she is. You dodged her question, distracted her with another topic and detoured everything to the positive side.
It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t have to spill my guts just because someone was curious–longer still to stop defending against the unspoken judgments that came with the nosy questions. I learned these things the hard way, of course, and I created a guide for how you don’t have to. Here are few tips adapted from The Hardline Self Help Handbook.
Happy List: Since you may not always have a brownie recipe memory on the tip of your tongue, do you homework and make what I call a Happy List. Write down names of people you might run into during the holidays then jot down an interest or story that can trigger a get-out-of-jail-free topic-turner for each. At the bottom of the list, make a few general positive conversations possibilities–no politics, religion, sex, etc.–that you can use for instant distracts with just about anyone. Make the list and keep it handy. Do it–you’ll be glad you did.
Get Over It: Now to the big one–your issues. Yes, you have them, we all do, and when we go home they’re ready and waiting to be ignited by old family dramas–don’t. Easy to say, but how do you not get sucked into the muck and find yourself saying and doing the same things you did the year before with same dismal outcomes? You have to do your mental laundry before you get there. Seriously. We all want the approval, validation and a sense of belonging from parents and family, but the fact is not all of us get it–and never will no matter what we do–so we have to get over it.
Do not for a second think that getting a PhD in astrophysics is going to get you the “atta girl” you want from people who are disappointed you didn’t join the family dog grooming business. Often–maybe always–the people we most want to get validation from are the least likely to ever give it to us–they simply can’t–and that’s a good thing. Because if they did, we might never be able to give it to ourselves–we’d simply keep chasing a brass ring we could never catch instead of finding fulfillment from our own choices.
So, before you go home for the holidays, do your homework and your mental laundry, make a Happy List and practice the 3Ds. When you’re confident, relaxed and happy about who you really are, it won’t matter what anyone else says or thinks about it. You’ll eliminate a ton of anxiety ahead of time and you’ll be able to go home without getting sucked under–you might even get through the holidays with a smile!
Paula Renaye is a motivational speaker, certified professional coach and author of the multi-award-winning personal development guide, The Hardline Self Help Handbook–What Are You Willing to Do to Get What You Really Want?
A self-confessed former eggshell walker, emotional wreck and utter failure at keeping her life from falling apart, Paula uses her path out of despair as road map for others. For more tough love tips, visit her website at http://hardlineselfhelp.com.
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