Are you feeling a little anxious about holiday family gatherings? Had I been wiser, I know I would have approached those with my dysfunctional family much differently. How can you endure regardless of the dynamics? If you're a young professional who feels like they're back in high school around family, or you're spending time with people you don't know (or like) tap into the skills that make you shine every day at work. Here are five ways to survive this holiday and come out stronger in the new year.
1. Make a plan
In work situations you encounter people you don’t know, don't like, that look right past you, piss you off and irritate you all the time. Chances are you have to suck it up, smile and work with them, right? Of course, you do. So, start with a plan and prepare before you head out. What happened last year? What might you do differently? What's happening this year? You can’t control how others act or behave, but you can control your emotional responses. That kind of self-control gives you power over work and family situations alike. So, think it through and make a plan based on the situation and any triggers or scenarios that tend to play out.
2. Know your audience
In business settings you assess your audience and act accordingly. Making the same sales pitch to Google, Gap Stores and Deloitte and taunting the same product benefits would be a huge mistake. So be mindful of family members, particularly those you rarely see, or any new acquaintances. Casual chit chat can often sound insensitive. Your excitement over a promotion or loft apartment can be perceived as arrogant or inconsiderate if some have fallen on hard times. And, please steer clear of politics and social issues. Trust me, all the people who aren’t caught up in the banter are going to be rolling their eyes, and wondering who is going to open another bottle of wine. You want to be in that group. It's much more fun.
If you're wondering how you are going to get through the day, approach it as you would a networking event. Put your phone down, grab a drink and work the room. If you don’t like to socialize, fake it. It's really quite simple. People love to talk about themselves so ask questions and listen. Safe bets are children, pets, vacations and hobbies or interests. Your hosts will absolutely love how involved you are. You might even pick up a few LinkedIn connections. If nothing else, it's good practice for networking events.
4. Show initiative
If people were running around going crazy at work you would jump right in to help. So, find your host and do just that. Whether it's your parents, siblings or extended family, they may be smiling on the outside, but your offer of assistance will make them happy on the inside. Hosting a gathering is exhausting. And, if you’re staying over don't forget your added responsibilities. Namely, keeping your sleeping space and bathroom tidy. At work you keep your workspace and common areas clean because those are the rules and you want to make a good impression. The same logic applies when you are a guest in someone's home. And even if it's your parent's home you're a grown-up now, so act like it.
When you meet with a client you always thank them for their time, and then you follow-up to check in, send your regards, or thank them for their business. This situation shouldn't be any different. Sure, they're family, but with the time, effort and expense, the least you can do is reciprocate with a sincere thank you. Whether it’s a thoughtful email, a call or an actual card requiring postage, do it. It might sound redundant, but appreciation never is. When you start hosting, you'll understand why.
The holidays are challenging. Family dynamics are complicated. Tap into the skills you rely on in your career and enjoy this time. One of these days you will look back and wish you had a hell of lot more of it.
Did I mention that alcohol helps? In moderation of course. Cheers!