Healthy relationships are built on honesty and respect. But dealing with problematic people and behavior can be seriously anxiety-producing, especially if during a busy holiday season. Deep down we know we deserve to be treated respectfully at home and at work. So why is it difficult to ask for what we need?
In today's world, we're far more inclined to ignore or "ghost" someone who disrespects us. We might block that person, or send a passive-aggressive text. Here's the problem with not addressing problematic behavior face-to-face:
You deserve to feel safe and respected by those around you. Backing down from, ignoring, or blocking a person whose treatment of us is unacceptable does not actually address the problem. The perpetrator knows it and so do we. We lose a little bit of SELF-respect when we pretend a situation is OK when it is not. If what we want is respect and trust but we aren't willing to stand up for ourselves and ask for it, we lose some credibility and integrity.
Learning the art of communicating effectively in person makes us better leaders, parents, partners, and friends. The more the brain settles, the less adrenaline will be released. Soon your pulse will barely react when you take the time to thoughtfully confront someone who has hurt you.
Some people will only like the version of you they can control or manipulate. Standing up for what you need may be very uncomfortable for the people who want to keep things the same, which works for them.
During the holidays, expectations (especially of how a family is "supposed" to be, look, or act) are heightened. And if grief is part of this year's journey, you may have even less tolerance for family drama. My best suggestions come from what has worked for me:
Rehearse. Visualize how you want to feel this holiday. Relaxed. Calm. Loving. Now picture the conversations you need to have in order to feel that way. See them going well. Set an intention for mutual trust and respect and a warm embrace afterward if that's your goal. Rehearsing is a skill that many high-performing people use to feel comfortable in uncomfortable settings.
Prepare. Don't sit on your emotions until Christmas Eve then act surprised when years of hurt feelings erupt like a New Year's firecracker. Think back to situations and people who seem to be the source of your discontent and set a plan for getting out ahead of it. Schedule a coffee with your Aunt in November and respectfully request that she not ask "when are you planning to get married?" again this Christmas.
Keep perspective. Remember that most of us are just trying to do the best we can. The holidays add pressure to lots of us and we don't always know what people are dealing with. Healthy doses of lowered expectations and grace go a long way.
If you could use help identifying who in your life is problematic, and examples of what language to use for setting a boundary, download my 19-page workbook. In it, you'll find
5 respectful ways to create healthy boundaries
10 ways to say ‘no’ while maintaining the relationship
4 tips for setting boundaries with confidence
7 pages of examples, prompts, and self-assessments
I hope this workbook helps you start speaking up for yourself in a calm and confident manner.
Remember-- You deserve to feel safe and respected by those around you. Ask for what you need. Taking steps in honor of your sacredness will ALWAYS feel right.