How to Survive Family Gatherings During the Holidays

Holidays! This is the time of the year when people go visit their families for, supposedly, good times and a nice meal together.

Well, these are gatherings where we revive family ties and catch up on news from everyone. More often than not, though, what we see is a gathering of a bunch of people who have nothing in common, really. Here sits a bunch of strangers called relatives: uncles, cousins, in-laws, friends of family, nephews, etc. all dressed up with nowhere but a family dinner to go.

After greeting everyone, you decide to take a look at what others are doing. You will regrettably realize that some will drink too much; others will eat too much; others won’t turn off the television; others will only serve others, and still others will never stop cleaning. You want to make small talk but after some futile attempts, you get bored.

To make matters worse, some will do nothing but criticize everyone else while others, especially the ones doing all the cleaning will make everyone else feel guilty. And to complete the ordeal, there are also those who, no matter what, will bring up politics and religion to the table, just to heat up the conversation.

More than a fun day, it will most likely be a pretty stressful one, compared only to the tension of “The Pianist.” After a very short while, you will realize that, again, you wish days such as this never existed.

An even worse case scenario would be if the visit is to your spouse’s family rather than your own. Than, the nightmare would be complete. Oh, yes! You think for a moment that your family is not comprised of a bunch of weirdoes as his or her family is.
Dream on! Your life-partner will feel just the opposite!

So, how do we deal with such a situation?

The best approach is to learn in advance who will be present in this gathering.

Call ahead of time, at least three days beforehand. Now that you know that Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Wilbur will be there with their two children and the their families, and that your sister-in-law will bring that guy who really thinks he is a good politician but can’t really speak one sentence using common sense, as well as Rupert, your father-in-law’s college roommate that just got divorced after 30 years of marriage and can never shut up about his wife keeping the house he bought for her in the first place, you can begin to pray for them.

Ok. Perhaps “pray” is a strong word. Bless them. That is what you need to do: one by one, you should bless them. Better yet: make a list of the event attendees. Ok, let’s make a list:

1. Get your phone and call at least three days before the gathering to learn about those who will be attending the event.

2. On a piece of paper, write down everyone’s names.

3. Write each name on a different line.

4. Thank the host/hostess for the names and hang up the phone.

5. On another sheet, write again the names of the dinner’s attendees.

6. Leave five blank lines between names.

7. For each of the attendees, write five good qualities each person has.

8. If you can’t find something good about a particular person, skip him or her and go to the next one.

9. When you are done, go back to fill the blanks of the people you left behind.

10. No, you may not skip finding five qualities of each person who will be in the gathering.

11. Put your pen down, or stop writing if you are using a word processor. I recommend you do this by hand: it is more powerful.

12. After you are done with everyone, say aloud each name and bless this person.

For example, Aunt Myrtle:

(1) makes delicious brownies,

(2) sings beautifully,

(3) knows how to buy bargains,

(4) dresses extravagantly – if you like the way she dresses; otherwise, find something else–

(5) remembers everybody’s birthday.

Bless you, Aunt Myrtle; I am looking forward to seeing you at the dinner (you can add the word God, if you so wish, as in: God bless you, Aunt Myrtle, I am looking forward, etc., etc.)

Got the picture? What if you simply hate a person with such a passion that you can’t think of a good quality even if your life depended on it? Look deeper. I swear it is possible to find those five good qualities, even if they are lame ones. At least they are qualities!

Now, be ready for a miracle. When you get to the gathering, you will see that those who bother you will leave you in peace; those who criticize you, will be pleasant, or, at least, mute; those who love you will go out of their way to make you feel welcome, and so on and so forth.

It is all about your energy regarding these people. I guarantee you will be so happily surprised by the pleasantness of the gathering that you wish you had known about this process a long time ago.

By the way, after the holidays are gone, you still can use this process for any occasion, really. You only need to start doing your list every time you need to meet someone else.