Friends, Family, Expectations, and Acceptance

One trademark of the holiday season is celebrating with friends, co-workers, and family including in-laws. For many these occasions may be filled with holiday cheer. While for others it may be the part of the season that is dreaded all year. My guess is that for most of us it is a mixture of the two and that, when it comes to interpersonal relationships, a main source of our frustration is unmet expectations. In an ideal world, we imagine our holiday festivities to appear much like Normal Rockwell’s classic painting “Freedom from Want”. More realistically the diverse personalities that surround us, and with whom we celebrate with, can make for an atmosphere that is a crucible of love, resentment, revelry, awkwardness, contention, appreciation, and a general longing for connection and acceptance. Here are some tips that may be of use this holiday season when navigating the sometimes treacherous waters of human interaction.

1.     Practice Acceptance

Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean you’re okay with, or approve of other’s behavior. It just means you acknowledge that difficult behavior is outside your sphere of control, while how you respond to that behavior is completely within your control. In this way you are practicing taking your power back rather than letting others control your emotions.

2.     Know When to Reinforce Appropriate Boundaries

While many behaviors can be easily dismissed, others may need to be addressed. When doing so, be sure to use “I” statements and own your own experience. For example if your mother tries to discipline one of your children in a way you don’t approve, you can give feedback such as “Mom, I’d really prefer you didn’t discipline little Jonny because it makes me feel uncomfortable”.

3.     Try Focusing on the Positive Rather Than Obsessing Over the Negative

Along with the difficult behaviors, there’s gotta be things you enjoy about the people in your social groups. Make it a point to notice those positive attributes and even point them out. It may not immediately turn into a Norman Rockwell holiday, but finding the positive can brighten family and group interactions enough to bring a little more yuletide cheer into your holiday festivities.

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