A Christmas Gift: You Don’t Need To Be Right
We get ourselves into a fankle over Christmas, much of it avoidable. Let’s start with the facts: unless you live in a cave you will be doing some things you really don’t want to during the festive period as well as some things you do; you won’t get everything you want and will undoubtedly end up in IKEA at some point. Remember how cheap the breakfast is!
Here's how to deal with the inevitable discussions around where you need to go, where you want to go, for how long and who will do the driving. Coincidentally, it’s a seven step programme.
Start the chat now, don’t leave things until the last minute. Nothing good happens when there is heat from the off.
Own your feelings and thoughts. Don’t squash them or deny them. Accept how you feel about the issue (it’s unfair, you are angry or resigned or frustrated) and then where your mind goes (I want to scream, run away, throw this trifle in your face, phone mum and say how unreasonable you are).
This is important because what you think and feel is real. If you are the type to fly off the handle, own it; same if you are the one who goes quiet and stews, but remembers every damned thing.
Don’t act on your visceral feelings and thoughts, because you are not twelve years old. Be an adult, press pause, take the dog for a walk.
(Better still, give the issue proper, rational thought.)
Ask yourself a simple question: what do I want? What is likely, proportionate and reasonable? What is up for discussion? Have a bottom line and some positive suggestions.
Listen properly. Listen without interrupting or qualifying. Listen like you love this person and they have something useful and important to say to you.
Consciously and deliberately acknowledge what they are saying, find out where they are without judging (you have plenty of time for that). Don’t react emotionally when provoked, or at least don’t be surprised you have a big fire when you fanned the flames; it doesn’t matter that they lit the kindling. You are not twelve!
Pitch you own suggestions, your partner is not psychic. If this is what you always do, wait a bit. If you never do this, speak up. Expect a discussion, debate, argument, push back. If you are the type who is robust and argumentative, don’t be like that. If you are the quiet sort who acquiesces, step up!
Step seven is not easy and takes practise. You need to know and trust yourself and change yourself before you can help others. It’s a journey you might struggle to complete before Christmas but here is the good news: nobody ever completes it.
You can start it though. There is deep joy in accommodating those you love as best you can while getting a version of what you want. There is a ton of self-confidence from asking for what you want from the most immovable of relatives and getting something back.
There is a boost to your self-regard simply in the act of asking, even if you are not entirely successful. And there is something, too, in not needing to be right, or having the last word.
You may have recognised this is a route map for how you might behave in any difficult situation. Life can seem an endless journey around nursing homes, schools, clubs and flats needing refurbished.
Of course, there is still time to book a week in Tenerife. It’s sunny, you get our telly and it's surprisingly inexpensive. I’m not kidding - though it is much cheaper after the fifth of January.
Merry Christmas, see you in IKEA on the 28th December.