Create Peaceful Holidays Using One Simple Statement

Knots form in my stomach when someone gossips or talks-crap. Unaddressed tension feels uncomfortable. I love that my husband, the person I spend most of my time with, isn’t in the habit of speaking poorly about people. If we’re struggling with someone, we agree to ultimately discuss it with that person. We allow limited space to complain and agree to not get wrapped up in drama (I save that for my binge watching of Bravo reality).

Sitting at a holiday party yesterday, I was surprised to see Lauren walk through the doors. Weeks ago, she told me the host, Michelle, unfollowed her in Pinterest and Instagram and spoke terribly about her to a mutual friend. Yet they were acting as if nothing happened. And at dinner one day, Taylor sat next to Lacey, acting chummy. Taylor had previously said she thought Lacey was an awful person.

What's up with this? These are relatively new friends. Most of my friendships are decades old -- is this a norm I've been oblivious to?

I don’t get wrapped up in drama. If someone talks poorly about a friend in their circle, I ask “when are you going to talk to him/her about it?” I won’t ever repeat gossip and while I can be trusted, I have a low tolerance unless the goal is to vent then clear the air.

Years ago, I learned how to take ownership of my feelings to have a constructive conversation. It’s simple and starts with:

When ___ happened/happens, I felt/feel ___.

Let’s give it a try:

Dad, when you scream at the TV [action] I feel tense [one-word description]. I wanted to clear the air because it’s been something I’ve carried with me for weeks now. I’d like to enjoy our time together, so perhaps we can watch only funny and light-hearted programs [request]. Or maybe I can squirt you with water each time you yell?! [Humor has always worked well with my dad.]

The most important part is to own your feelings, not point blame. This helps the listener actually hear you. They have the opportunity to step in your world and understand the impact their actions had on you. The statement doesn't work like "When you yell at the TV, I feel like you're an a-hole." Can you tell the difference? ;) It also doesn't mean anything bad about the person you're talking to. You're sticking 100% to actions and your feelings, avoiding making things personal and I can bet that nine out of ten times, it's not. 

Next in importance is making a request. The person might not take you up on it, but at least it gives you a starting point to get to a common ground. Try it. You'll be amazed how this disarms and quickly gets to the root. It feels like a weight lifted. 

I try to be expressed in the moment, so “conversations” are avoided down the line. But if I'm struggling, this single sentence eases tension. It's to the point and helps me understand what exactly rubbed me wrong. (To flex those emotional intelligence muscles even more, check out my post about Cutting the Crap, where you dig deep and explore why something triggers you.)

What if we all practiced clearing the air this way when there’s an elephant in the room? Picture how lighthearted the holidays can be! We'd focus on adding joy to our lives instead of dwelling in discomfort. I love elephants and here's to keeping them in the wild where they belong!