It seems everyone is giving advice on how to survive family gatherings and family members in particular during the holidays. For all the talk about how to survive your family have you thought about how you might be making their holidays a living hell? Here are four ways you could be and how you can take some cues from your work life to put things in perspective and minimize the drama. So, let Your Office Mom review what you might be doing and what to do differently and why.
You show up empty handed
You knew the holidays were coming up. They always happen this time of year. There’s no excuse for turning up empty handed. You say you're busy or you're traveling. Seriously? Even when it’s last minute, you can pick up flowers, a bottle of wine, a box of candy, a movie or a scented candle (even at a grocery store). In the airport? Try chocolates or an item from one of bazillion gift shops. It doesn’t matter what it is, bring something. Just like it is with an important work commitment, people need to know they can count on you to pull your weight. No BS. No excuses. It's the same with your family. And sure, Mom will say you don't need to bring anything or get anyone a gift. But, really? Are you 12? You may not get this, but in this particular case, family wants to know you give a shit. The act of bringing something indicates you do. If you are seriously strapped for cash plan a thoughtful gesture or action and follow through.
You don't read the room
If you're trying to impress people, don't. They get it. Be humble. You may be one up-ing some or all of your family members without even realizing it. Sometimes the casual chit chat you normally engage in with your friends can sound insensitive at holiday gatherings. Before you talk about your new loft apartment, your big ass raise, or flash that big ass engagement ring you need to read the room. Be mindful of how you may sound to others. Did brother Jake drop out of school? Is Aunt Jill strapped financially due to divorce? Is distant Cousin Whatshisname struggling to put food on the family table? You never know. So monitor what's flying out of your cake hole. You need to know your target audience just like you do in business situations. Presenting the same sales presentation to Google, CarMax and Deloitte would be a huge foul. Know your audience.
You don't network
It’s one day, maybe a couple if you’re staying over. So put your damn phone down. You’re not a global leader, so it’s a safe bet you can go dark for a few hours. Your work and your friends can survive without you. You may not be overjoyed to be part of this little gathering, but chances are others are feeling the same way. If nothing else you have that in common. So think of this as you would a professional career event and put your networking skills to use. Give people your undivided attention. Grab a cocktail and start working the room. First, find your host and offer to help. Then, get involved. Ask questions. Listen. Make it about other people. You'll learn surprising things. That's what happens when you network. Mom will be happy that you aren't looking at your phone all day. Except maybe to add a new contact. Network well and others will speak fondly of you after the fact, just like they do at professional events.
You lack initiative
They may be smiling, but whether it's Mom, Dad, Grandma or Auntie your host is wiped out. Hosting a holiday gathering is exhausting and expensive. If this was work related what would you do? The answer is easy. You would jump in and help. You wouldn't take no for an answer. So let that kind of initiative kick in here and get off your ass. And, if you’re staying over don't forget that you have added responsibility. You’ll need to straighten up your space by making your bed and organizing your toiletries. Think of it as taking care of your workspace and the common areas at the office. You're a young professional and you know the rules and you do it to make a good impression. The same logic applies when you are a guest.
Granted, the holidays are challenging. Family dynamics are complicated. Silent Gens, Boomers, Millennials and Gen Zs converge in one space. Emotions run high. Before you head out think about what you can do to help your loved ones have a more enjoyable holiday with you in the mix. Tap into the skills you rely on to be successful in your career and enjoy the time with your family. Trust me, one of these days you will look back and wish you had a lot more of it.
Photo by Well Cultivated