As we prepare to get together with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving, feelings of anxiety and fear is normal. Being with family is not always a peaceful happy time for some.
It may mean having to sit with someone who you would rather not be with;
Fear of criticism, judgement, and lack of acceptance starts to kick in.
Maybe, you are going to be with someone whom you have a fractured relationship with and you are trying to heal it;
Fear of another family argument can cause increased anxiety and even depression.
Maybe you are confused as to why a family member or friend always ends up getting angry at something you said, and you feel like you are walking on eggshells every time you see them;
Fear of being blamed for “someone else’s problems” creeps up.
To help you reduce the risk of a painful and stressful family get-together, here are three communication mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t Blame: This is not the time to bring up past mistakes, hurts and pain. A large family gathering is not a safe place for anyone to engage in processing unresolved anger and hurt. In doing so, the one who hurt you will become defensive in order to self-protect. You also run a high risk of triggering other family member’s pain and trauma. As a result, they may start to unload their own hurt and work to protect the family member they feel is being “attacked”. This will increase the possibility of a family argument and exasperate your pain and the pain of others.
Validate: Instead of blaming, validate your feelings AND the feelings of others. There are no wrong feelings.
- Don’t Brag: It’s so easy to want to share all the great things that have happened to you and your family, but be careful. You can be seen as bragging. Bragging can quickly be unintentionally demeaning and hurtful to those who are struggling with their jobs, kids, and/or relationships. You may be feeling really good about your accomplishments, but someone else will be left feeling less-than.
Encourage: Instead of talking about your accomplishment, focus on encouraging and supporting those around you. In doing so, you will feel good while making others feel good. It’s a win-win.
- Don’t Preach: Whether it is politics, religion, manners, or morals, don’t tell others how they should or should not believe or behave. Take the word “should” out of your vocabulary and inner thoughts. The word “should” is judgmental whether you are judging yourself or others. Unless you want your family to judge you, be careful not to judge them.
Love Unconditionally: My mother taught me that you can never show love too much. We all want to be loved and accepted. The more you sow love, the more it will be given back to you.