How to Future-Proof Your Family Relationships This Festive Season.
#1 Treat your family like your clients.
Like every health smoothie, some things don’t necessarily taste great, but you know that they’re good for you, so you tolerate them — especially those green ones with spinach, kale and wheatgrass.
The festive season is also a mixed bag of ingredients — family, fun and relaxation. Your family is a key ingredient and adds so much flavour to your holiday, but like the smoothie, it can begin to overpower it if you add too much of an ingredient in one go.
The power of family connection has been highlighted during this pandemic and is something that should never be taken for granted. However, phrases like familiarity breeds contempt is a cliche for a reason. Common sense isn't always common practice especially when it comes to your loved ones.
Here are four things you can do to ensure that you have the perfect blend of ingredients to not only maintain high-quality relationships but to nurture and grow them this festive season and beyond:
Treat your family like your clients.
“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” –George Santayana
It’s a mystery why the people you love the most tend to get the brunt of your frustrations. It’s as if you’re on your best behaviour at work or with your friends, but the gracious part of you goes out the window as soon as you come home.
It’s not to say you can’t reveal your true self, but what if you treated your family as if they were a client? What does that mean practically?
It’s not about insincerity but remembering the little things like saying please, thank you, or would you mind? It’s being as interested as you are interesting by taking the time to ask about their day.
Can you give them your complete focus and attention and truly listen without glancing down at your messages at the same time?
It’s a subtle mindset shift, but it makes you realise that the people you spend the most time with deserve the same level of attention and politeness.
We often give all our energy at work, leaving our fuel tanks depleted. Make sure you are using the festive season to take a mental break and a physical one.
Remember, your family also deserve the best of you, not the crumbs.
“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself” — John Steinbeck
Empathy is about stepping into someone else’s shoes and imagining the situation from their perspective. It moves the lens from all about you to ‘what must it be like for that person?’.
I find this approach very effective with my kids, who are 6 and 8 years old. I wake up at 5 AM to do yoga, meditate and journal. As an introvert, I thrive in solitude and connecting to myself, so this time is my mini sanctuary every day.
One morning as I stepped onto my mat, my daughter came skipping into the room with excitement because she thought it was the perfect time to do LEGO with me.
If I’m being honest, I felt a pang of resentment because this was supposed to be my special time. I quickly took a breath and stepped into her little shoes. She was so excited to have time with me when everyone was still sleeping.
Having empathy for her made me realise what matters at the moment. I gave her a huge hug, wrapped up the mat, and off we went to build LEGO.
Without empathy, I may have let my frustration show, and she would have felt devastated. She wasn’t doing anything other than showing excitement to spend time with me. Empathy gave me the gift of recognizing this magic moment with her which is truly what life is all about.
Before you default to judgement or frustration with someone close to you, consider if you are missing the key ingredient of empathy?
Manage your expectations.
“Expectations are like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they are to crack.” ― Brandon Sanderson
If you donate to a charity and no one publicly acknowledges it, do you feel upset about it?
You expected this generous dose of gratitude to make you feel good inside. It validated that you are a generous person.
This is a profound question because it makes you question your true motives. Do you feel resentful because they took away your right to feel good about yourself? If you’re honest, you should give for the joy of contribution, not the acknowledgement.
We do the same thing with our expectations of other people. The problem is that expectations often lead to disappointment because most people do not think or behave the way you do.
If you do an act of kindness like clean the kitchen or tidy the garage and don’t get the recognition, you feel resentful and angry?
Or perhaps you want something from your partner, but you don’t communicate it. You expect that they should know what you want without saying it.
Having high expectations and not communicating your wants leads to passive-aggressive behaviour. You don’t say anything, and the frustration begins to build over time. Eventually, it takes one small move like leaving a dirty dish in the sink, and you lose it!
To maintain peace this festive season and beyond with your loved ones, drop all expectations. The higher your expectations of others, the higher your risk of disappointment.
Replace expectations for appreciation. Can you find a reason to give a compliment and acknowledge them for no reason at all other than being who they are?
Replace expectations for communication. Rather than have invisible expectations of someone, communicate what you want. It doesn’t diminish the act because you told them to do it.
Withholding your needs from someone and expecting them to know what you want sets them up to fail and only leaves you and the other person frustrated.
Assume positive intent.
“Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek”. — Dalai Lama
Your new mantra is ‘assume positive intent’. If someone is late for dinner, doesn’t reply to your message immediately or forgets to do an errand they committed to, tell yourself — assume positive intent — before launching into judgement or assumption.
It’s human nature to make up stories in your mind, especially ones about this person being a villain and intended to hurt you on purpose. The truth is, most people are good-natured and perfectly imperfect.
If someone doesn’t call me back, I assume it must have fallen off their radar because they got busy. If someone is late, I assume they must be stuck in traffic, or a genuine emergency came up — not that they don’t care about my time and respect me.
I used to have an assuming and judgemental approach if someone was late. When they arrived, I would be fuming on the inside. Now I wait patiently and am always pleasantly surprised by genuine circumstances that appeared outside of their control.
Let’s say someone greets you in a cold and subdued way, not in their usual upbeat manner. It’s human nature to assume you may have done something to upset them or think they are cross with you. Remember that everyone is living a story you know nothing about.
If someone appears aloof, assume positive intent and develop three possible scenarios why they may be acting this way. Maybe they just received bad news or had an accident on the way into the office or found out a friend is ill?
By assuming positive intent, you can have compassion for this person rather than default to judgement and assumptions.
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” –Desmond Tutu
Honouring your family relationships is an ongoing process, not just something you pay attention to over the festive season.
Personal development guru Tony Robbins says that the quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life.
If you can bring these four practices into your relationships both personally and professionally, you will create the most phenomenal life:
· Treat your family as if they are your clients.
· Practice empathy.
· Manage your expectations.
· Assume positive intent
Here’s to powerful relationships,
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