Thanksgiving is a time to come together to reconnect, enjoy a harvest feast, and appreciate life, including the people around us. Yet for so many, it’s not all stuffing your face and laughter. Family dynamics may be strained at the outset, and in contentious times, it’s easy to get sucked into focusing on what we don’t agree on. Here are some tips to make the most of this genuinely awesome occasion:
1. Find the Humor and Tap into Forgiveness
When Aunt Sally does her thing, when Grandpa is grumpy and opinionated when cousin Tyler is a sarcastic snit, be amused, “Oh, they’re at it again,” – everyone is just starring in their own movie. You can’t control that, it’s a waste of energy to go head to head, and at the heart of the matter, it has very little to do with you. Try to approach the situation with compassion: each person is trying to do their best, with what they know. They might be stuck in their own patterns. Forgiveness goes a long way in releasing you.
2. How would the best, most patient and loving version of you show up?
Instead of highlighting issues people don’t agree on, (and you know the hot topics), consider just refusing to engage in inflammatory conversations. “Nope, not going there – next topic!” You’re probably not going to come to a consensus that evening anyway, so don’t try to argue who’s right. Do a smart seating plan, lead by example and focus on universal values, like gratitude, tolerance, kindness, and love. Putting differences aside and speaking gratitude and kindness around the table brings out the best in everyone.
3. Take care of your energy
Have you ever entered a room and when you heard someone else laughing, and you couldn’t help but start to laugh too? Emotions are contagious. Instead of depending on other people to create a good atmosphere, bring the joy. As the saying goes, we cannot control anyone else’s feelings, but we can take charge of our own. Be intentional about the vibe you want to share.
4. Look for the lesson
Sometimes, those closest to us have a way of pushing our buttons or winding us up. Why? They know us so well that it becomes an unconscious habit. Consider that some of the greatest lessons that we can learn are about ourselves: how we get bent out of shape, and what we can do about it. Young children are master teachers of patience. Relationships are incubators for personal growth. If we get triggered by someone in a situation, ask:
5. Appreciate everyone’s presence
It’s natural to take people for granted. We also take it for granted that we have all the time in the world, and that others around the table do too. The truth of the matter is that life happens, and we really don’t know with 100% certainty if a chair may be empty a year from now. If there’s a time to weave that thought you’re your words, it could touch some people in unexpected ways. The point is: appreciate everyone’s presence with new eyes and an open heart.
6. Don’t expect perfection
If you have a specific picture of how it has to be, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment…much better to expect the unexpected and go with the flow. One year, my turkey, even after it was supposed to be ready, was raw. After a moment of feeling simultaneously shocked and mortified, I figured what are you going to do? We put the bird back in the oven, grabbed some other food as we were waiting, (making sure the “hangry” people were taken care of) and had a good laugh. That was one of the most memorable Thanksgivings and still puts a smile on my face.
So, inspire a fresh take on the Holidays. Anticipate friction; refuse to go there, and call in your best self. Forgiveness is fuel for emotional freedom, and when you keep your vibe high – it may just spread to those who need it most. When you see through the eyes of love, you may be surprised by how much your view improves.