Holiday Parties: Preparing Your Presence

Bringing your Best by Writing Down your Best

I know some of you would like a hand preparing for a party that you’re not looking forward to (the kind where there’s some unsaid things between you and someone else attending, or between the others attending). If you prepare yourself well, however, your presence can make all the difference.

To show the preparation process I’d like to suggest, here’s a made up example where Sally is preparing for the New Year’s Eve party.

A little about Sally and her family:

  • Sally is usually overwhelmed when there’s a lot of people in the room. She has a tendency toward introversion.
  • She senses the tensions between people, and cares that they be resolved. Specifically, there’s some tension between her and her brother right now. A lot of things unsaid.
  • Her mother has expectations of a harmonious get-together, and feels it would be a personal failure if there was confrontation.
  • Usually, parties tend to be played safe: not bad, but not great either. The atmosphere isn’t deeply joyful like she knows it could be. Sally imagines parties where everyone feels understood and appreciated, where being together feels like a safe haven.
  • Sally feels some dread about the situation with her brother, and has been imagining conversations with him that turn out in fights or in him disengaging. So she realizes she needs to prepare herself, to clear things up.

To get ready, Sally reaches for her laptop and writes some notes:

Simple enough. But she knows the “have fun” part would just be masking the situation, and she wouldn’t be able to have much real fun.

So instead, she turns to a new trick she learned: visualizing how the party will end. For that, she re-writes her list…

It feels off. She asks herself: “if there’s only one thing that’ll really be true in here, at the end of the party, and all the others are just a little true, which one would it be?” Had fun? Talked to my brother? “There’s something else I want from this party, it’s that…”

“Yes, that’s actually what I want most!” Her contribution to that will be to have…

But since she knows she gets drained easily around too many people, she’ll make sure to go alone and recharge if needed.

In addition to what Sally wants, there’s also what her mom wants, so she visualizes what a success for her mom would look like:

“Mom wants more than harmony”, she thinks:

Sally realizes she still has “Honoured my mom’s wish of harmony” as something she’ll have done by the end of the party. But there are two problems here: 1) What, specifically, can she do to honour harmony, besides biting her tongue and 2) that’s actually not what her mom wants. So what is Sally’s part in helping that her mom will have “Obtained a sign that everyone cares for each other”?

“Caring for my brother will be the tough part… my feelings on our situation are all mixed up”, she thinks. What is it that she really wants to obtain, that is both minimal and most important?

A lot of expectations there. And what about him? What does he want? Sally doesn’t seem to know. But she decides to give it a guess.

“There’s a lot about me in there”, Sally notices. “What if the stuff he’s going through isn’t about me?”

There’s something there… so Sally continues how this could be something she could help her brother obtain.

So Sally wants to broach the subject, and he wants space to broach it only when it’s time.

But all Sally wants is to connect with her brother. So she edits her own objectives:

But she does still want to have that deeper talk with him, so it stays on the list, written slightly differently:

Now let’s see if the order holds up. Sally asks herself: “if only one of these things will have been true by the end of the party, and the other ones only partly true, which one will it be?”

That’s more like it! That feels right. At a minimum, she’d be happy with just a small laugh, and if she gets that deep talk, all the better.

It also feels coherent, because she found a way to get what she really wants, what her mom wants, and what her brother wants, all at once. She feels set for the party.


After the party, Sally looks back at her list. Not only did she get that connection with her brother right at the start of the party, she got a deep talk with her brother later in the evening too. It turns out that by being ready for the party, she showed a level of calm and confidence that was just the space her brother needed to feel like he could bring up what was on his mind and not feel judged when he was ready to do so.


I hope this was useful. I’ve been using this approach to plan my own presence at holiday parties for the past few years and it’s been a great help.

If you have some of those situations you’d like to clear out, I’m running The Language of Objectives Course. It’ll show you how to take your life’s complex situations and how to turn them around with lists of objectives like the ones above.