If You’ve Really Got to Go: Your Guide to a Stress-Free Family Thanksgiving

This past week, I was lucky enough to leave early for my Thanksgiving holiday. As I stood waiting for a vacant bathroom on the plane, the flight attendant said to me, “There’s another bathroom in the front if you’ve really got to go.”

If you’ve really got to go?

Suffice to say while I applaud her initiative, my experience would have been very different had she said, “If you’d prefer not to wait.”

Am I being picky? You bet. But, as noted in The Wow Factor, we’re all on a razor’s edge these days: it’s these small choices that set you apart from those around you.

I bring this up today as many of us are heading into that compound oxymoron: a “family vacation” full of “family fun”: and sustained interaction with loved ones often brings out our own tendency to go rogue.

Consequently, a quick primer for your holiday:

“I was just trying to help.”  This too-frequent fallback has a guilt-inducing overtone that can send those around you straight to Crazytown. Far more effective is, “What can I do to help?”: a call to action that allows the family-member you’re attempting to work with to remain in control of the situation.

“Don’t get angry.” Let’s face it, “Don’t get angry,” only ramps up a situation. Instead, you might substitute, “I’m sorry—what’s the fastest/easiest way to fix this?”: a combination of accountability and request for forward motion that I’ve found particularly effective.

Any sentence that begins with, “You always/you never,” rarely ends well. Instead, I suggest, “When X occurs, I’m left thinking/feeling Y. Is that your intention?”: a non-accusatory, fact-based formula that takes the other person’s personality out of the equation, lets you speak your piece, and leaves room for additional clarification by everyone involved.

With all best wishes for happy, harmonious holidays!