The Holidays are expected to be a festive and fabulous time. However, many people dread holiday family gatherings, maybe even more so on Zoom during this COVID-challenged season… people talk over each other and don’t hear what the other is saying. Perhaps Aunts and Uncles drink too much, and parents have judgments about what their grown children and grandchildren are doing. We may have ideas about our parents who eat junk food, and sisters who chose to take toxic medications and vaccines that are causing side effects that they are ignoring. Our teenage nephews and nieces may be watching media that is brainwashing them to believe something that makes our blood boil...there might be times when we cannot understand how these people are related to us!
Facing them and having a pleasant conversation for several hours during a gathering or even for the 40-minute Zoom call (which has been lifted for the Holiday, much to some people’s chagrin) can make our heart clench up with anxiety. We may feel resentment and which could lead us to behave in a way that we later regret. And that regret is heartbreaking. It also causes long-term stress and dis-ease, which leads to, you know, disease. So it is not healthy or happy for us to have these conversations continue to go the way they have gone, perhaps for years,for them or for us.
Most of us are not just coming from a place of judgment and negativity; however, (which is just a part of what happens because we are human), we want to get along. We do. We just don’t know how or we don’t see that we can be or aren’t willing to be responsible. We want our loved ones to be healthy and happy; we have good intentions, loving, caring intentions. We want them to know what we know about GMOs, glyphosate, wireless radiation, the toxins in vaccines, and the side effects of drugs. We want them to know that most of their problems with health and mental disorders can be resolved primarily through better food choices. (By the way, 1 out of 5 people have mental disorders today so the odds are several people in your family have them..and they may think one of them is you!) And we want them to make better choices because We LOVE them (even if we don’t like them right now)! So we want what is best for them, and we want to communicate effectively to have them see what we see.
The problem is they don’t want to hear us. Perhaps, just consider that they don’t want to hear us...because they don’t feel heard by us. Consider that the secret to a happy holiday is to take on being THE ONE who will have your family members feel heard. If they feel heard, they feel safe. With safety grows trust, respect, and love. And all of those equal a happy holiday for all.
Without those, without that connection and understanding, they will not be receptive to anything you have to say about their personal habits. They may listen to you yammer on about your job, favorite sports team, or the new Netflix series you are both binging on, because you know, we have time to kill and the ham (probably GMO fed, UGH) is still roasting. However, if you get anywhere near telling them what they should be doing, how to eat, how much they use their cell phone, or if they get vaccinated, you are likely to face the shut down of the century. Their face will ice over faster than you can say “flu shot,” and soon your sister, that you felt connected to the hip with as a child, is walking away to get another drink or slamming the laptop closed. These are not happy outcomes.
However, if you set aside your judgments for a moment (say to yourself, ok got it, yeah they just said they can’t wait to get the COVID Vaccine while reaching for another Sara Lee cinnamon bun and scratching their eczema rash), breath.... and then ask them, how are things going for them? How’s their job/health/pet rat doing? And just LISTEN. And when you are listening instead of judging, look for how they feel and for which something to acknowledge them. Take on that your job is to mine for gold while they are speaking, and that’s it. Don’t interrupt. Just zip it and listen. If they do complain about a rash or something related to health, when they stop, get them and be curious, ask them for more, like, “That must be frustrating! So how long have you been dealing with this rash?” And listen some more. DO NOT FIX IT. Do not tell them to use this cream or stop eating that food, or to not get a shot....unless they ASK you for advice. In fact, ask them, “What kinds of things have you tried?” Just listen, you might even learn something! When you do say something, acknowledge how they feel and then acknowledge their ability.
For instance, after they have said everything they need to say about it, acknowledge how they feel so they feel gotten. It might be something like, “Man, I hear that you are frustrated.” Pause, look them in the eye, “That must be stressful for you. I am sorry you are going through this.” They might say, “YES! It sucks....” And they might complain some more. LISTEN.
And when they are done again, offer, “You know one thing I know about you? You are an awesome researcher, and you don’t give up. What I am getting is that you are unstoppable about your health. So I know you are gonna figure this out. I am not sure how, but I know you got this! Come on, let’s go play Heads Up!” (which you can do on Zoom too). Be the family member that gets them, believes in them, supports them and has fun with them. Give up listening just long enough so you can jump in and fix it by giving them your nugget of wisdom. Doing that makes them feel wrong and bad. Be with them, laugh with them...that is more important than being right. Your relationship is more important than being right.
No one feels heard when they are interrupted and told what to do. Everyone feels heard when people listen, give them their full attention, receive empathy, are acknowledged. And you know what? After they’ve felt listened to and acknowledged, they might even say, “Wow.... thanks for listening, I really appreciate that. What would you do in this situation?” Or they might not...if they don’t, be patient. Building trust, respect, and love takes time. Just like learning about that topic took time for you. You didn’t know at one time too. And that didn’t mean that you didn’t respect people who did know. It did not mean you didn’t love them. You just didn’t know. Then you did- and you went through stages of denial, anger, and grief, learning what you learned. Don’t expect others just to take in what it took you several months and eight books on the topic to learn.
It might take another 40-minute Zoom call, or two, to build that trust and their curiosity in what you have to say. That’s okay, you are family, and you are there for them. You care about their happiness....and when you do...everyone is happy!
Happy Holidays to all!
Note: Once you get to a place where you have built trust and your family members come to you for advice, try the communication method called “Feel, Felt Found,” which is reviewed by Communication Expert and ADD Coach Susan Patterson on our Moms Connect Call.