Christmas with Your Family Provides an Opportunity to Practice

Funny as it is, the presence of the family brings an average adult back to their teens. Suddenly, the most horrendous features of our personalities emerge, we lose half of our nerves and most of our sanity.

Every single Christmas I swear that this year we will spend a cozy and warm family holiday, the kind you see in movies. We will be capable enough to behave ourselves, and then BOOM! After the first four hours I’m ready to lock myself in the woodshed for the rest of the day.

Ok, I might be exaggerating a little, it’s not that bad really. But I bet many recognises the fact that your family makes you lose your nerves more easily than anything else. In the presence of your loved ones you let your guard down and perhaps that’s why they get under your skin so easily and so fast.

And because Christmas is again just around the corner, I can’t help but wonder, what could I do differently this year?

Take your irritation as a chance to grow

My family hasn’t changed much during one year and neither have I, although some growth might have happened. That’s why it’s not very likely that the same phenomena wouldn’t happen again this year. We are very different by nature, and because in the company of our families we don’t filter ourselves as much as we do with the rest of the world, sooner or later we will reach the point where we can’t bend anymore, and we snap.

But hey, this is actually a very good opportunity to examine your behaviour and habits. Your own, not everyone else’s! As soon as you realise the tension in your shoulders, it’s time to slow down and ask yourself what’s going on.

Usually it’s because your family member gives you something that resembles feedback. The feedback could be:

  • Direct: ”Good lord, what an ugly sweater.”
  • Indirect: ”Maybe it would be wise not to eat that second ginger bread.”
  • Perhaps for a reason: ”You could also help with setting this table.”
  • Perhaps for no reason at all: ”You’re such a killjoy.”
  • Quite inappropriate: ”Haha, look at that protruding belly of yours!”
  • Hidden: ”We would have never finished this on time, if I hadn’t taken care of it.”
  • Unclear: ”It is so challenging to buy you presents.”
  • Clear as day: ”Nothing is ever good enough for you.”

These comments aren’t always meant as feedback, but our subconscious minds interpret them as such, and they often work as a trigger that causes the reaction. Oftentimes the reaction is either fight, flight or defend yourself. If it is possible, in this moment, to stay still and take a deeeeeeep breath, it is possible to analyse which trigger was it that activated.

Recognise the triggers and scrutinise them

The book Thanks for the Feedback (Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen) introduces three different triggers, that are activated from feedback, and they are: truth, relationship and identity.

  • The truth trigger sounds in your head somewhat like this:
    • ”No, it’s not so, no, I am not, that’s not true, you’re exaggerating, that’s not how it went, this didn’t happen and besides, this doesn’t help anyway.”
  • The relationship trigger sounds in your inner monologue like this:
    • ”Who are you to say, look at yourself, after everything I’ve done for you, you can only blame yourself and it’s actually all your fault.”
  • And the identity trigger makes one either ask:
    • ”Am I really that bad, did I really do that wrong?”
  • Or yell:
    • ”I AM NOT THAT BAD, I DID NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG!”

So which trigger activated? In order to control your reaction better, it might be enough if you recognise the trigger. Once your mood is a bit more calm, it’s easier to ask whether this feedback is relevant and should be paid attention to, or is it better to just ignore, grab another ginger bread and sneak in the living room to play with the dog, since it has no opinion on your weight, sweater or personal features.

If you master this art with your family, you get to start the new year as a first-class feedback ninja. And if it were the case, and probably it will be, that you blow your fuse, it’s ok too. Calm down, apologise, forgive and move on.

How is it with you? Does your family give you tension or are you all peaceful eating chocolate together? Welcome to cool down with us in the Koodarikuiskaaja Slack!

Or what do you think?

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