How to Focus on What Matters During the Holidays (and Keep Yourself Feeling Merry).
Part 2 of 4 of the Holiday Stress Survival Guide
The holiday season is here, and along with this time of year comes a lot of “stuff”! Yes, “stuff” can come in the form of things, objects, presents, toys, etc., but there is also a lot of emotional “stuff” that gets stirred up this time of year. If you are feeling over-“stuffed” and want to loosen the button on your emotional pants, read on for ways to cope. Part 2 of this four-part Holiday Stress Survival Guide focuses on relationships.
RELATIONSHIPS DURING THE HOLIDAYS
The holidays are a time when relationships come front and center. We often spend more time than usual with family members or those who are like family. We can find ourselves in a cocktail of a lot of face-time with people with whom we have a lot of history, and high stress, all while feeling rundown during these cold months and at the height of cold-and-flu season. Maybe not a mixture we would like to order often, but during the holidays, this is what we have on our plate.
SKILLS FOR INTERPERSONAL CONFLICTS
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a well-researched therapy offering lots of skills that you can put into practice in real-time to get true results. There is a whole module in DBT focusing on Interpersonal Effectiveness. Here are some quick tips for applying some of my favorite Interpersonal DBT Skills to ward off (or decrease the likelihood of) interpersonal conflicts during the holiday season.
Be skillful, and ask for what you want, DEAR. DEAR is an acronym used in DBT that gives us a template for what to say when we would like to ask for something we want. It goes like this:
D – Describe just the facts, without judgment. This orients the person to what you would like to discuss.
Example: I’d like to talk about who is making each dish for Christmas dinner this year.
E – Express how you feel about the situation. Explicitly tell the other person how you feel. They may not know if you don’t say the words!
Example: Nobody has committed to bringing a dish yet, and since I am hosting, I’m feeling overwhelmed.
A – Assert what you want. Say precisely what you are asking. Don’t leave it up to guesswork. Be specific, direct and clear.
Example: I would love if you could tell me two dishes you will bring and let me know by this Friday.
R – Reinforce the person in advance for giving you what you want. Here, you are answering the question, “What do they get out of giving me what I am asking for?”
Example: If you tell me by Friday, you can choose whatever is your favorite to bring, and I will be much less stressed the next time we talk! (Don’t be afraid to use a little humor and an easy manner to loosen up the conversation.)
Practice writing out your DEAR ahead of time and then rehearse a few times before you deliver it. The beauty of this skill is that only four little sentences are needed to ask for what you want in a direct and assertive way. You can also use this skill to refuse a request, like a dinner invitation. Use the same steps but instead of “Asserting” a question, say “no” to the request. Try it!
VALIDATE (yourself and others)
Validation may be the most powerful interpersonal skill. Use it wisely! When used effectively, validation opens the doors of communication and closeness. Make sure that is what you want and you’re ready. I have seen validation break down walls that have taken years to build. It may be the most potent tool to affect change.
People often misinterpret what “validation” means. Validation is not a compliment, agreement, or approval. Telling someone you like something about them or think they are “right” is not validation. Validation is exhibiting that the other person (or yourself) makes sense. We display validation in many ways: paying attention, nodding, asking questions to clarify, making statements such as, “I understand why you feel that way,” or, “That makes sense.” In other words, validation is treating someone as though they make sense whether or not you agree with them or like what they are saying.
Validation of either ourselves or others is a mighty technique in diffusing conflicts. Once any of us feel understood and like we matter, we calm down and are less defensive. If you’re interested, check out my quick steps and worksheet for practicing self-validation. You can use the same steps on someone else.
Happy Holidays! Please remember, life is too short just to survive. Use these practices to help you THRIVE!
Read the whole series
If you use any of the practices suggested, please feel free to share your experiences and send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, your comments and feedback help inform future posts.