By Mary Kelly
Sometimes your most brutal critics can be the people you love the most. Your parent, siblings, spouse, children—you know, the people who should be supporting you. Instead, you get unvarnished, unsweetened criticism about your clothes, your choice in partners, your hair, or your career. Sometimes in happens in front of the rest of the family.
So, what can you do during the holidays to handle unwanted comments?
Here are five things you can do to survive critical feedback.
1. Reframe Criticism as Caring
It can help to change your perspective of your family’s criticism. You know deep down that they do not think you are a terrible person or a failure, but maybe they do care enough about you to want the best for you. Sometimes their worries or concern manifests as criticism, even if the person did not mean it that way. Mentally reframe hurtful words as a sign that your family member really cares about you.
2. Talk About the Effect of Criticism on You
Not all caring feels warm and fuzzy. Some family members probably have no idea that it is hurtful to challenge your life choices or criticize your parenting skills. Sometimes the best thing you can do is calmly tell the other person how their criticism makes you feel. Say you value their advice, but perhaps they could be more positive and helpful in the way they deliver it. Ask for concrete suggestions and see how you can strategize together.
3. Remind Family Member that Unconditional Love Is Not Just from the Dog
Families are supposed to love each other no matter what, but sometimes people forget that. They think it does not matter how they talk to their child or their sibling, and the niceties of politeness fall by the wayside. It is interesting that we are often more polite to complete strangers than they people we love the most. Make a conscious effort to be more polite. Remember to use “please” and “thank you.”
4. Set Clear Boundaries
Sometimes family members forget that grown-up children are adults, not kids anymore. I still remember when my nieces and nephew were born, and sometimes it is a shock when I think that they voted in the last election.
Adults make their own mistakes and take responsibility for their actions and life decisions.
Much as I WANT to give my nieces and nephew advice on their lives, I need to remember that if they want guidance or advice, they will ask for it. My job is to make sure they know that I am available for them if they want that advice.
5. Decide to be the Dog
We all know that dogs love unconditionally. I personally live with The Happiest Dog on the Planet. She was a rescue dog who had no idea where she was going when we selected her, but she happily jumped in the truck, wagging enthusiastically the whole time, and never looked back. She was not sure where she was going, but she decided that it had to be better than where she was. Her attitude continues to inspire me.
We can emulate the dog’s attitude and decide to love our family no matter what. That does not mean we like them all the time, or that we approve of some of their dumber life choices, or that they do not drive us crazy. But we can control our responses to their comments. We can decide that we will accept them as they are.
6. Make Good Choices
Ultimately, it is our choice. Yes, some people are toxic, and maybe we need to limit our time with them, whether they are friends or family, but we can set time and emotional boundaries. We can choose to take on their negativity or not. We decide how we react.
The holidays can be stressful because we all want happiness and enjoyment, and sometimes our expectations of others do not match reality. That is okay! Smile and say please and thank you, be pleasant, and control what you can control.
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