CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It that time of year for those Norman Rockwell family get-togethers. Start your engines.
Extended family gatherings can hold such an emotional charge -- and for good reason. Expectations are high, bandwidth is low and most of us have been rushing around for weeks in preparation for these few days.
Throw in exhaustion from travel and disruption of routines for the kids and grandkids for a well-rounded recipe of potential letdowns.
Even the most close-knit families fall prey to these stressors. So, how can you put your own oxygen mask on?
First of all, manage your expectations. Rather than thinking you can change the entire family dynamic, look at some baby steps. You can't control the actions of others in the equation, especially that pesky relative who gets on your very last nerve.
The only thing you can control is your reaction to the curveballs that may be thrown at you. Stay focused on your overall outcome -- a peaceful, harmonious connection. And choose your battles. Here's some ammunition, two simple rules to keep in mind.
Surviving (and thriving) during holiday gatherings
1. Don't take anything personally.
2. Don't make assumptions.
Easier said than done, right? How can you not take it personally when Cousin Joe throws a salvo over the mashed potatoes? Be prepared with some phrases to defuse any volatile situations that may come up.
My favorite phrase consists of four simple words that work like a charm. The phrase is very simple, although it can have the powerful effect of disarming the other person. "You may be right" is the phrase.
Hold on. Doesn't that send the message that I'm caving in and backing down on my principles? No, because I'm only allowing for the possibility that the other person may be right. I'm not saying that he or she is right. See the distinction?
Rather than igniting a spark, the salvo is defused. The other person hears the possibility that they may be right, rather than a protest to debate. And, yet, you haven't actually given up any ground. Pass the sweet potatoes, please.
Here is another defusing statement to consider using: "Looks like we have different perspectives on that; I hadn't thought of it that way."