Basic Guide on How to Plan Family Get-Togeter
by Beth Banning and Neill Gibson
Seems there’s always another holiday gathering or family reunion right around the corner. But do you ever leave wondering why you went? Are some of your in-laws and extended family members a little hard to deal with? It can be different.
How would you like to walk in feeling excited about being there, knowing that you’ll leave happy about your whole experience? It’s your choice. Discover five tips that will show you how to plan your next family reunion experience just like you’ve always wanted.
Are you wondering how your next family gathering will turn out? Is it tough to relate to some of your family, in-laws, and extended family members? Do you sometimes leave feeling drained and wondering why you went at all?
It can be different this year. Imagine walking into your next family reunion feeling excited about being there and knowing that you’ll leave feeling happy about your whole experience.
It’s your choice. You can use these five tips to make your next family gathering the experience you’ve always wanted.
Tip #1 – Decide What You Want to Experience
We call this creating an intention. If you aren’t very clear about what you do want to experience, then it will be difficult to make that happen. And it may be hard for you to even notice it when it is happening. How do you get clear about your intention? Ask yourself these questions:
“How could my family and I benefit from this?”
You might choose fun, caring and harmony. Or peacefulness: “If my experience today could only be peaceful I would walk out happy and wanting to return next time.” Take some time to imagine all the qualities that would make your next family gathering a wonderful experience for you.
“How could you and your family benefit from this quality of experience?”
Perhaps you could gain a greater sense of connection. You and your family might really look forward to seeing each other again. Or you might be more playful with one another. The time you spend identifying these benefits will help you remember your intention if things start to get challenging at the gathering.
Tip #2 – Know That People Are Doing the Best They Can
You might ask: “When Aunt Sue complains about everything under the sun, is she doing the best she can? When Dad criticizes me about every part of my life, is he doing the best he can?”
Yes. They’re doing the best they can.
Stop and think about it. Do they look like they’re having fun at these times? Are they being effective at getting what they really want? If they knew a way to take care of themselves that was more fun and that worked better at getting what they really wanted, don’t you think they would do it?
So if you get upset seeing people act the way they do, remind yourself: They’re doing the best they can. Then get back to creating what you want to experience as fast as you can.
How do you do that?
Tip #3 – Don’t Take Things Personally
“Don’t take it personally if someone says that what I’m doing is stupid?”
You can avoid taking things personally if you start with this understanding: Everything people do or say starts with a desire to support something they value.
And what could that be? Guess.
Your father says to you: “How can you possibly think that starting your own business is a smart thing to do?” He might value security, or predictability. He might be worried about how you’ll continue to pay your bills. Believe it or not, this might be his attempt to contribute to you. And, he is Doing The Best He Can.
So the next time you hear something you don’t enjoy, the next time you want to defend yourself and justify your position, STOP and remember: It’s about them. Don’t take it personally.
Instead, try to be curious. “Wow, I wonder what’s going on with them?” Imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes: “If I said or did that, what might be going on with me?” See if you can guess.
Tip #4 – Clarify Your Understanding About What Others Want
One big cause of upset between people is not being sure about what they want from each other.
Have you ever heard people express concerns or complaints like: “I just don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent this month?” Or: “I hate it when we start eating without giving thanks first.” Or maybe a family member starts talking to you about how your favorite cousin is making a mess of her life.
What happens then? Do you feel confused or uncomfortable? Do you try to justify yourself, explain the situation, or give advice?
Whenever you feel uncomfortable hearing people’s concerns or complaints, we believe this is partly caused by your not understanding what they want from you.
We suggest you start asking for clarity. Say or guess out loud what you think the other person might want from you.
Before you start, remember tips 1, 2, and 3.
~ Get present to the intention you created for the gathering.
~ Remember people are doing the best they can.
~ Don’t take things personally.
Suppose cousin Jim says: “I just don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent this month.” What does he want? Ask him: “Do you want to brainstorm some ideas about how you might get your rent this month?”
Or when your grandmother says: “I hate it when we start eating without giving thanks first.” What does she want? Ask her: “Would you like to see if somebody is willing to give thanks before we eat this year?
If your guesses aren’t accurate, they’ll let you know by saying something else that gets closer to what they do want. Your guess will open the way for a conversation that can lead to more understanding and less stress for both of you.
Tip #5 – Develop Your Ability to Be Grateful
What you focus your attention on grows.
If you constantly notice things that cause you pain, then you will continue to suffer. “How inconsiderate he is.” “She doesn’t care about me.” “He’s the most selfish person I’ve ever known.”
Try focusing your attention on what you do enjoy.
It may sound simple. But ask yourself: “What would it be like if I spent my day simply noticing everything that I enjoy about being with my family?”
Imagine looking for all the things that you do enjoy, and being thankful for them. “It smells so good in here; I can’t wait to eat.” “I’m so grateful that everyone cares enough to spend time together.” “It’s nice that my mom enjoys having these gatherings at her house.”
How would you feel if you only focused your attention on the things you do enjoy?
So here’s the plan for a family reunion experience just like you’ve always wanted
1. Decide what you really do want to experience
2. Know that people are doing the best they can
3. Don’t take things personally
4. Clarify your understanding about what others want
5. Focus on what you enjoy
Following this plan is the fastest, easiest way to enjoy any family experience.
Now that you have a plan in place for your next family gathering, are you ready to tackle the other relationships in your life? If you’d like more tips for developing
effective skills that support healthy relationships, sign up for our thought-provoking and motivational Weekly Action Tips eMail series at: http://www.FocusedAttention.com/cmd.php?ad=081030
Each tip offers practical advice for creating the relationships that you really want.
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