Emerging Confidence Blog

Weekly inspiration to help you learn to trust yourself so you can build the life and career you want and earn the salary you deserve.

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5 tips for a more enjoyable family gathering.

November 21, 20223 min read

Spending time with family.  For most of us, that phrase brings joy and happiness.  If that’s you, have a great Thanksgiving.  For others, it brings anxiety. 

Marriage and family therapist, Christina Steinworth-Powell, says that her busiest time of year seeing patients is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.  Is anyone surprised by that?  I’m certainly not. 

Think about all those family gatherings.  Will Mom criticizes your life choices again?  Will Uncle Fred bring up politics and point out why you’re wrong?  Will your brother poke you in the side and ask how much weight you’ve gained?  Or will your dad point out all the mistakes he believes you’ve made raising your kids?

Whatever conversation you’re trying to avoid or exit from gracefully, here are five tips to make your family gathering more enjoyable.

1)   Know what your triggers are.  Before you leave your house or the guests get to your house, think about who or what is a trigger for you.  Does discussing politics get your heart rate up?  Is your weight/relationship status/anything personal an off-limits subject for you? Take some time to think about what topics have been challenging for you.

2)   Be prepared for them. Often, the reason we struggle with being assertive or any form of conflict is that we’re not prepared for it.  One minute we’re standing by the appetizers enjoying a deviled egg; the next, we’re cornered by a relative asking us when we’re getting married, having kids, or finishing that college degree.  So, be prepared.  Think about who will be there and what topics they may come up.

3)   Steer the conversation. If you get caught in that uncomfortable or awkward conversation, politely tell the person that’s “not a conversation I’d like to have today” and change the subject.  Talk about the weather, sports, or your latest Netflix find. 

4)   Be assertive. If the person persists, use the DESC model of assertion to make your feelings known.

  • Describe the behavior/situation as completely and objectively as possible. Just the facts!  Begin with “When…, or “When I…”. You might say, "When I heard people discuss [fill in the blank]..." and finish it with the next piece.

  • Express your feelings or thoughts about the behavior/situation in a non-evaluative way. Try phrasing your statements using “I” and not “You.” Beginning sentences with you often puts people on the defensive, which means they won’t listen to you. Going with the previous example, you might say, "When I hear people discuss [fill in the blank], I feel very anxious.".

  • Specify what behavior/outcome you would prefer to happen.  “I would prefer…”, or, “I would like…”. For example, "I would prefer we change the topic."

  • Explain the consequences if there is no change. It could be as simple as, "If you insist on this conversation, I'm going to excuse myself to another room.".

5)   Step away. As a last resort, you may find you need to remove yourself from the situation. Depending on the situation, it may be to another room or for a walk around the block. Or you may need to leave completely. Don't allow guilt to keep you in a situation that might put your mental health at risk. You are worth so much more than that.

If you use any of these tips or have additional ones to share, I'd love to hear them. Send me an email at sandy@emergingconfidence.com.

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Sandy Stricker

Sandy Stricker is the CEO of Emerging Confidence, empowering women to listen to their inner voice and live in confidence while achieving their personal and professional goals. She helps women learn to lose the doubt so they can build a career they love and get the salary they deserve. She has more than 30 years of experience coaching high-performing women.

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