As the holiday season is approaching many of us will find ourselves in overcrowded living and dining rooms with family and friends we see once a year. In such close proximity, people can bring up hot button issues like religion and politics which can cause discomfort over a holiday meal. Below are a list of ways to maintain boundaries and prioritize a focus on the relationship using Marsha Linehan’s, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy technique that focuses on Interpersonal Effectiveness skills, GIVE.
- Be Gentle- Even if you strongly disagree with someone’s opinion, it can be helpful to be mindful of your reaction and take a step back before responding. You do not need to become nasty but rather can politely say you disagree or are choosing to discuss something else is a way to share your opinion in a gentle way. Use “I” statements to express your feelings rather than saying “you” which can cause someone to become defensive and start an argument.
- Act Interested- Focus on staying in the moment and acting interested in what the other person is saying. This can be challenging if you are wanting to avoid the topic of conversation but often other people want to be heard and then will move on to another topic. Some ways to act interested non-verbally are by using eye contact and nodding your head to show you are following what the other person is saying.
- Validate- Validating someone’s opinion does not mean you agree with it. Some
validating statements can consist of the following:
- I can see this is an important topic to you.
- It is apparent you have strong beliefs on the topic.
- I respect your opinion and beliefs.
- Easy Manner - A smile and easy manner can diffuse a tense situation. Keeping the conversation light and returning to a surface level topic of discussion can assist from having long drawn out conversations which can be adversarial. Ways to maintain boundaries, can be by discussing the weather, holiday travel plans, and current work experiences which are topics
Taking a step outside, away from the table, or to use the restroom can be a much needed break from intense conversations and to utilize mindfulness, grounding techniques. If you are experiencing anticipatory anxiety of the upcoming holiday gatherings, it could be beneficial to discuss your concerns and work with a trained therapist to learn coping skills to assist with your future holiday endeavors.
Stephanie Cerula, LPCC