3 Tips to Avoid Grown-up Holiday Meltdowns

This time of year is filled with opportunities to communicate. Family and friend gatherings, holiday parties and get-togethers will require a high level of communication. For some this is an excitedly anticipated time to catch up and reconnect. For others, this is a dreaded occasion where they are forced to play verbal and emotional chess with others. Every gathering runs the risk of someone getting hurt, mad, or having a complete meltdown over something. While we don’t have total control over how others communicate, we can take some steps to minimize holiday drama with our own communication skills.

  • Storytelling vs. Storylistening – We all know the “One-Upper.” You say you got a great deal on something, and they share how they got a better deal on a bigger something. Most of us know how to avoid being a One-Upper. However, a close cousin is the “Me-Too-er.” Someone shares a story about travel plans gone wrong, and before they’ve barely uttered their last word, Ms. Me-Too-er jumps in to share her own travel-plans-gone-wrong story. While her intent was to commiserate and participate in the conversation, she actually physically yanked the spotlight off someone and planted it firmly on herself. Storytellers are fun, but storylisteners are, too. If you have something to contribute, ensure the other person is done sharing their story before easing into your own. Remember, when it comes to being the person everyone wants to be around, instead of trying to be interesting, work on being interested.
  • Politics, Religion, Sex, and…Curiosity? – There are many topics that are live-wires right now. Politics is one of them. And that’s a BIG topic. Religion is dicey too. Even sex scandals are creeping beyond Hollywood and Washington and moving closer to our own communities. While I caution any who decide to talk about these fiery topics, there will no doubt be discussions around them. They are permeating our media now and everyone has an opinion. If you find yourself tempted to be sucked into this vortex, instead of sharing your opinion, why don’t you try being curious. Ask questions like, “what do you think the solution is?” or “if you were in charge, how would you handle it?” Be cautious that your tone is one of curiosity, not interrogation. Whether you agree or not (remember, you haven’t shared your own opinions – you’re being mysterious) thank the person for sharing their views and then work on steering the conversation in another direction. You can always get into a debate (or smackdown) after the holidays…
  • Be Aware of Your Own Sensitivities – We all have triggers…nagging little injustices that stay tucked in the back of our mind until a certain someone pulls them to the surface. They say what they always say, you flip out, and then try to explain yourself by saying they always make you feel a certain way. No one can MAKE you feel a certain way. You feel a certain way because you have some facts (FACT: Suzie tells you every year how “cute” your house is. FACT: Suzie frequently brags about her expensive home, cars, and luxury vacations) and you fill in any blanks between those facts with stories: Suzie is a self-righteous snob who just likes to belittle you in front of others. The authors of the book, Crucial Conversations, call these Victim and Villain stories. Neither of which is 100% accurate. Don’t take the bait your storytelling leaves you…vow to have a discussion with Suzie AFTER the gathering, and in the meantime, recognize your triggers, and do your best to let it go…for now.

Some of these are easier than others to pull off, but they are all likely to make a difference and keep the wine in our glass instead of in the face of our foe.

Alright, it’s your turn. Share a tip you have for keeping the drama out of a grown-up gathering. Post it in the comments section.

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  1. so good, april. minimizing drama is always a worthy cause (and i find that extended family members especially trigger me). i LOVE this >> “instead of trying to be interesting, work on being interested.” i was recently in the company of a one-upper. no matter what, his experience was better. (i seriously couldn’t stand it after awhile! haha)

    • Yup, I have triggers, too, April. Like you, those one-uppers can make things a little challenging! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love this post – and it is so needed. I too like the quote that April highlighted – be interested! I try to use that everywhere. And living in a part of the world where there is really not public talk about sex, other religions are accepted, but no one is trying to for any ideals on anyone, and politics are not typically talked about except the occasional head shake at Trump’s latest Tweet it makes for such a much more interesting interaction among people. Again, I think taking those out of many social situations, not just holidays is not a bad practice!

    • WOW, Pam!! To think that somewhere in the world, sex, religion, and Trump are NOT the topic of conversation brings me great hope!! 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  3. Brexit has divided families in my neck of the woods & Christmas festivities is going to bring both side of the fence together, so very important to take on board your advice. Thank you for sharing.

    • Yes, Rebecca, you will certainly have your challenges this season over a very important topic. I hope these tips prove useful to you. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. I get stressed over the Christmas and there were times I just vacation it through in exotic destinations. I will implement your strategy on story sharing. For me, being interested means being a good listener. Oversharing and upper-ones drive me bonkers. Thanks for another great post April!

    • Not a bad strategy, Erin! If you find yourself stuck in conversations, I hope the over-sharers and one-uppers are few and far between! 🙂

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