With the holidays upon us, I’ve heard from many people who are anxious about being face-to-face over the dinner table with family members who disagree with them. Whether it is about politics, how to raise children, religion, life choices or careers, people are wondering how to keep the peace while spending more time together.
Here are seven ideas to remain present:
• Remind yourself that how you keep the peace is what your children are learning about peacekeeping, so make it important.
• Make your relationship more important than being right. If a relative begins talking about a contentious topic, find a way to make them right. Even if it means seeing one tiny speck of light in the darkness, find it and allow them to be right. Then, redirect the conversation. For instance, while passing the mashed potatoes, Aunt Mary says, “This impeachment is a witch hunt.” If that is a topic where you disagree and you wish to keep the peace, you could respond, “It does seem to be going on forever. I look forward to it being over, too. How is your garden?”
• Remember what you love about them. Think of three things that you love about your provocative uncle before he even arrives. Remind yourself throughout the visit, especially if he begins a rant. From that space of love, you can redirect the conversation without being equally as provocative and without getting sucked into a power struggle.
• Decide to be a leader throughout the visit, knowing that you are not at the mercy of what others bring up in conversation. You can change the subject at any time. You can respond with loving kindness to those with whom you disagree. Decide and redecide that you will lead toward peace.
• Decide that respecting others is how you wish to show up. What a great example for your children.
• Avoid labeling, knowing that if you have already defined your cousin as a bigot or your grandfather as a political wing nut, you will have a hard time remaining present. See them as whole people who are greater than their opinions or limiting beliefs. If someone does say something out of bounds, kindly point it out as being unacceptable.
• Take good care of you. Take breaks, ask for help, remind yourself that you do not have to do it all, get good sleep and go for walks. Do what you need to do to remain in balance.
Wishing you and yours a peaceful, delightful and respectful holiday season.