I love Christmas. I love the decorations. I love the music… minus “Feliz Navidad,” which is arguably the worrrrst song of all time.
Christmas music is heartwarming. Unfortunately, not everything is great about Christmas, especially if you’re not a fan of your extended family whether yours or your partner’s. Below is a list of ways to help you survive Christmas with family this year, but first let’s consider five positives of having to visit people we don’t want to see:
1. It’s good to be pushed outside of our comfort zone from time to time.
2. It’s a great chance to practice boundaries. I’ve worked with clients where being with family pushed them to know when to stand up for themselves in a loving way (aka being assertive) as well as addressing the gift giving rules to reduce waste and potential hurt.
3. It’s a chance to practice our conversation skills, and to know how and when to purposely change the conversation to something more comfortable for us.
4. We can be proud of ourselves for doing something uncomfortable. Good people know they need to do some things for the benefit of others and not just be selfish.
5. It gives us a chance to hear other people’s stories and learn something.
Now that we’ve considered positives for why we should push ourselves to see people we don’t really want to see, here is a list of practical things we can do to make the visit easier:
1. Learn Something: Read the newspaper or magazine and/or listen to a podcast you can talk about that’s not personal, especially if you can find information about something you know people there particularly care about.
2. Do Something Different:Purposely do something you don’t normally close to the day, so you have something to talk about. You could go to a mass, a mosque, a temple, an unusual store, or do something on wagjag like a rage room.
3. Be Ready to Compliment: A great icebreaker is a good compliment even if you don’t really care about it: “I like your shoes,” “I really like your blinds,” and other random stuff to show you’re a caring person and can create potential conversation about something other than you.
4. Ask opinion or advice: people can feel respected if you ask advice or their opinion. Even if you don’t need it, it can be a good way to connect. People like to be in a spot to help.
5. Be Prepared:Look up conversation starter questions you can use to get conversations started or redirected or you can write out a list of things you’ve done this year that you can bring up in conversation in order to have something in your head to talk about. Improv professionals don’t show up mindless to a show; they practice and prepare, so we should prepare in some way for meeting people if we want to be more interesting.
6. Have an Activity: I’ve found it helpful to have something like colouring, a puzzle you can do while talking to help you be more relaxed around people. Sometimes we need something other than a distraction activity to make the conversation be more relaxed, especially as a guy.
7. Games: I’m a big fan of bringing games to events because I’m typically not interested in talking very much (being a therapist can wear you out socially). I always bring a couple small group games likeTapple, Sequence, Blokus, Wizard, Pandemic, and Jenga, and some bigger group gameslike Pictionary, Charades, Catchphrase, andTaboo.
8. Bingo: Create a Bingo style game for you and another person or two to play that involves things like getting other people at the party to say certain words, do certain actions like yawn, or give certain reactions, so you have a reason to talk to people. A challenge can inspire you to try harder to meet people and lead to more fun.
9. A No Phone Rule:Make a rule that there’s no phones allowed for a certain amount of time to encourage people to connect with each other and not hide behind their phones.
10. Help in the Kitchen:When I go to a party, I’m the first to offer to help. It’s not really because I’m a good person (although I like to think so), it’s more about having something other than just talking to do. Like many guys, I’m better doing an activity and talking while doing it than just having a one on one conversation.
Whatever your situation is this Christmas, good luck and Merry Christmas!