I am starting a series called #HolidayHelp. I want you to have a great holiday season but there are communication issues that might prevent you from doing that. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or Muharram, it is coming. Awkward communication situations.
I won't pretend I know the ins and outs of all of the celebrations that go on during this time of year but I am fairly certain they all have one thing in common....PEOPLE. Human beings observe them and share their observance with other humans. This means communication issues are bound to arise.
During this series, I will speak to the traditions I know.
Today, I want to focus on the communication phrases that will ruin your holiday season.
I love the Christmas movies that are coming on 24/7 on Hallmark Channel. The stories of romance, miracles, and kindness just make me all warm and fuzzy inside. Despite the warm feeling, I have to be careful not to let Hollywood give me unrealistic expectations during the holiday season. Good communicators know the importance of managing their expectations.
Word/Phrases that will RUIN your holiday
PERFECTMarketers know how to pull on our heart strings this time of year. They tell us that their store or product will ensure that we will have the perfect holiday.
Beware. Perfection is a tough standard to meet. Who can be "on" all the time. I will be the first to admit that I don't have the money, energy, time, or craftiness to have the perfect tree, buy the perfect gift or cook the perfect meal.
As much as I love seeing the families in the movies tread through the fluffy white snow, in their Northface coats, to cut down their Christmas tree, I can't expect that my holiday will look like that. That just will not happen in my house for several reasons. If that is my image of what a perfect holiday looks like, then I will forever be disappointed.
Perfection also makes us put unrealistic demands on others. Your husband all of a sudden gets compared to the perfectly scripted romantic lead in the movie and undoubtedly comes up short. So you begin to think he doesn't love you or care. That is completely unfair to you and to him.
These words should be reserved for the "post game show". After something has happened you can deem it the best ever if it fits. But striving for the "best ever" before it happens is setting you up for failure, stress, and strife. First of all, the phrases is completely subjective to the user. A mom, for example, who wants to give her kids the best Christmas ever first has to figure out:
A. what was the kids' best Christmas thus far?
B. what made it great?
C. what could be improved on?
Few of us take the time to assess the situation this way. We just go with the warm feeling and hope that bigger equals better.
SUPPOSED TO BE
This is a phrase that is rarely spoken but mostly thought. We have been indoctrinated to believe that the holidays are "supposed to be" the best time of year. If you think about it, that is a lot of pressure. We are "supposed to be" to have happy family gatherings, take nice long vacations, give and receive presents. But the reality for many is that our families don't get along. Family gatherings become all out fights, brawls, and moments of embarrassment. Or maybe you are from a passive aggressive family, in which, you can expect snide comments, facial expressions that say a 1000 words, and subtle subterfuge. We endure this because family is "supposed to" get together.
Whatever your "supposed to be" is in your life needs a second look. Who or what has shaped it? If you are a horrible cook, baking the challah bread or the turkey might be the best use of your time.
Saying yes could ruin your holiday. How? From October to January someone is going to ask you to do something. Bake a few dozen of cookies for the school bake sale? Volunteer at the homeless shelter? Participate in Secret Santa? Help decorate this? Host that? There is always a long list of people asking for extra help and let's not forget extra money this time of year. You can ruin your holiday by saying yes to too many of those requests.
1. Be proactive.If you love volunteering at the shelter or making cookies. Decide before hand what activities your will do. Then say NO to everything else.
2. Say No.No is a complete sentence. Take back your sanity but saying no, no thanks, or no thank you. Say it english, Spanish, French, German, or Mandarin but you have to say it. No doesn't make you a bad person. It says you know your limits.
3. Accept your reality.
Look at your bank account. Examine your beliefs. Look at your situation. Accept what is and make the most of it. Enjoy what you have, don't fret over what you don't.
Our first Christmas as a married couple, we were broke. We didn't have any money for gifts or a tree. A good friend of ours gave us a string of lights. I strung them on the wall in the shape of a tree and that was all the decoration we had that year. It would have been very easy to run up the credit card but we were committed not to do that. We had to accept our reality.
4. Accept your decisions.
This might be the hardest part. You have to accept your decisions. We didn't send out greeting cards that year. We didn't give anything extra because we just didn't have it to give. I wish I could say that I was fine with that. But I struggled. Accepting my no; not making excuses for my no; and not being overcome with guilt was the hardest part.
But you know what? All those friends and family members who didn't get gifts or cards from us that year, are still our friends and family. All of those charities and civic groups where still around the following year asking us again for support. They kept on going without my donation and time. The PTA will have another bake sale. When we were able to give the way we wanted, they were all more than willing to accept our gifts.
Focusing on the perfect, the best ever, how things are supposed to be, and saying yes too often will ruin your holiday season. It is no wonder depression and suicide rates are high during the holiday season. The sad reality is that loved ones don't love us, family members will not be home in time for the holidays, gifts will be hated, you will get a fruitcake, you will be asked and even guilted into helping out with something.
But that doesn't mean you are powerless or that you can't have a great holiday season.
Focus on what you can do, what you want to do and only do those things. Trust me, by managing your expectations and setting boundaries you are setting yourself up for a more enjoyable holiday season.
I am taking requests. Is there a holiday communication situation you want me to cover? Leave a comment
Photo Credit: R-E-M via Compfight cc