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How To Prepare Yourself For Tough Holiday Conversations
Anxious about upcoming holiday gatherings and encounters? Learn how to safeguard yourself and prepare for those uncomfortable conversations.
A Group of People Having Dinner Together

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The holidays aren’t necessarily the happiest time of the year for everyone. For some, the holiday season can cause feelings of anger, anxiety, or despair. While the holidays can be a time of joy and togetherness, they can also lead to arguments between relatives or friends. Holiday gatherings bring together people with different viewpoints, opinions, and values, which can easily lead to conflict. Prepare yourself for those inevitable awkward moments over the holidays with these reminders.

“The holidays remind me of how broken my family is.”

Exhausted from the anticipation of a conversation you haven’t had yet?

Leave Your Expectations at the Door
The endless potential negative outcomes you’re anticipating haven’t happened yet…and they may not happen at all. Once you commit to showing up to a festive event that usually has controversy, you should also commit to leaving the past in the past — even if it’s just for this one day, week, or the holiday season. Try to discover common ground when awkward situations or challenging conversations arise by refocusing on a happy memory or experience that can help you feel connected. It can be helpful to break away for a few minutes in the bathroom, outside, or a less populated part of the house to help you regroup and get through the rest of the night.

Step Into the Driver’s  Seat of the Conversation
Many of us forget that conversations are a two-way street. If you feel yourself shutting down or getting defensive, remember that you can redirect the topic in whichever way you’d like. The key to having a great conversation is by realizing your power in it. Instead of leading from a place of “I told you so”, “here we go again”, or “I knew this would happen”,  lead from a place of grace, knowing that this is one moment — not forever. Ask questions that draw attention to details you are actually interested in or that you feel may liven up the conversation. This might inspire others to share relevant stories, taking the pressure off of you.

Plan a fun diversion
Take some time in advance to plan engaging interactive activities for holiday gatherings, such as conversation starters, minute-to-win-it contests, or board games to help keep the mood light. By planning ahead and having fun in your pocket, you can easily get everyone engaged in a fun activity, creating a distraction from any potential disputes that may arise, while cultivating stronger relationships in the process (even if it’s just for the moment).
Protect Your Mental Health

Your feelings and well-being should always come first, even if they don’t make sense to anyone else. With that being said, if you don’t feel like you have a holiday event in you: don’t go. If there’s a person you’re dreading seeing or a conversation you’d rather not have, set your personal boundaries ahead of time. Give yourself a time limit of how long you’ll be at the event, create a phrase that will excuse you from an uncomfortable situation, or for those who can’t do it on their own, create a buddy system with a friend or relative to help you walk away when needed. . Either way, check in with yourself before, during, and after the scheduled gathering with these 5 tips. The more you feel aligned with yourself, the better the outcome will be.

“I used to care about their feelings and making an appearance, but they do not make me feel welcome.”

Regardless of how you feel about the holidays, it can be a stressful and exhausting season for many of us. So when there is the potential of having a great time, don’t let bad energy ruin that for you. Whether last year’s event was turmoil or drama has recently popped off, set a personal goal that for one moment those feelings can be shelved and revisited at a later time when everyone has less to lose.

Take a Holiday Mental Health Inventory: What holiday event or conversation are you not looking forward to having? Share with a community of people who get it or have been there in the comments below.


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5 months ago

Thoughtful commentary on the perils of holiday gatherings; create your own traditions and prioritize your mental health. Remain grounded and focus on the love, joy and spirit of the holiday gathering.

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