How To Improve Your Holidays and Family Relationships
By Liz Bentley
I recently connected with a close friend that I hadn’t seen in a while. She was updating me on her extended family drama and the complications it was creating leading into the Thanksgiving holiday. In a nut shell, her brother and sister fight because they don’t get along with their respective spouses and they don’t like the way each other’s kids are being raised. Her siblings come to her with their laundry list of complaints, and she’s dreading the weekend they are about to spend together. This is one of many common family dynamics with which people struggle. And while we love our family, it’s not always easy to gather with them especially when different personalities, close quarters and alcohol are thrown into the mix.
While most people would like to believe that the root cause of all of these issues are flawed relatives who are incapable of evolving, I would argue that it’s actually far less complicated. Here’s our truth: the only person we are working on in this lifetime is ourselves! We are the only people we can change. It’s is not our job to fix anyone or analyze their psyche and behavior by looking for weaknesses. Flaw-seeking will always be successful. We can find fault in anyone especially if it’s our mission. In fact, the people we love and adore are often as flawed as others; it’s just that we decided their flaws don’t matter as much, so we overlook them.
Here are some of the reasons that gossip destroys family relationships and should be avoided:
- It changes your vibe. No matter how talented you think you are at masking your true emotions, your real feelings are always present. Humans are very good at feeling vibrations. If you are criticizing someone behind their back, they can feel that something is off and can definitely feel your lack of true warmth and authenticity.
- It magnifies faults. Talking about someone’s weakness makes them more glaring to you and to the others with whom you have conspired. We look for flaws to justify our feelings and prove our case.
- You lose empathy. Empathy, the ability to share the feelings of others, is critical to a relationship because it drives connection. It helps you understand people even when your experiences are different from theirs. You can still relate to their struggles and pain.
- You become unforgiving. Everyone makes mistakes. While we forgive some people easily for their errors, with others we hold onto our frustrations and don’t let them go, either overtly or quietly punishing them.
Criticizing people behind their backs is judgmental and drives disconnection. It also brings innocent bystanders into the issue because you’re highlighting negatives they didn’t necessarily choose to see. It is especially unfortunate when parents gossip with their children about relatives. While it might feel enjoyable to have your children aligned with your thinking, it distances them from their relatives, which may grow worse through the years.
It’s so easy to get frustrated with our relatives and wish they could make even the slightest change. However, as we work to become the best version of ourselves, we recognize that the changes we need to keep in focus is on ourselves and our ability to be kind, empathetic and nonjudgmental so that we can build family relationships that will last many generations.
This is a time to be thankful so as you gather with your relatives this holiday season, appreciate everyone’s differences, understand that they have their own strengths and struggles, practice empathy, and most of all, have fun. These are memories in the making.