Do You Have Trust Issues? 18 Subtle Signs + What To Do.

Explore the dynamics of trust in your life.

You might be reading this because someone told you – you have trust issues. But what’s that actually mean? How do you know if it’s true? What are the signs of trust issues? What should you do about it?

Maybe you’re reading this because you’ve noticed something in yourself that doesn’t feel quite right. It’s also possible you’re starting to see a pattern developing in your relationships. 

Tough Love Alert:

Maybe you’re beginning to realize you’re hurting yourself (and possibly others).

Whatever “it” is, it derails potentially healthy, fulfilling relationships by sabotaging them. 

You’re bold. 👍

Full respect! Exploring the dynamics of trust in your life will require you to seriously look at yourself with gut-level honesty. 

So, how do you know if you have trust issues? If you have signs of trust issues, how do you overcome them? And how do you begin to enjoy healthy connections and enduring bonds with people in your life? 

  • First, to clarify things, let’s drop the word issues from trust issues and simply examine trust
  • Second, can we agree that trust is the foundation of interpersonal relationships? Wait, isn’t love or something the foundation of relationships? You can love someone but not trust them. You can also trust someone but not love them. Trust is a BIG DEAL all on its own.
  • Third, let’s work from a rock-solid definition of trust. Trust is believing someone is honest, reliable, and dependable. They offer safety and security. Trust has been described as a firm belief in the ability, strength, reliability, and truth of someone or something.[1]

☆ Trust is the doorway all relationship-building thoughts, feelings, and experiences must pass through. ☆

Signs that you might find it difficult to trust people…

You have unacknowledged or unresolved past experiences, including:

  • A parent(s) who was unreliable, was too trusting or didn’t trust others.
  • Acute or chronic trauma, abuse, or neglect during childhood/young adulthood.
  • Circumstances characterized by instability or unpredictability.
  • Lack of support. You felt “forced” to be self-reliant to survive.
  • Betrayal or desertion by someone you trusted.

With others, you tend to do the following:

  • Perceive them as inevitably betraying or hurting you. (Without any justification.)
  • Assume the worst about them. (And not acknowledge positive traits.)
  • Project past wrongs inflicted by others onto trustworthy people.
  • See them as always lying, manipulating, or trying to deceive you.
  • Not distinguish basic human flaws from serious breaches of trust.
  • Need to control their behavior or their perception of you.
  • Sabotage relationships preemptively or to “confirm” your suspicions.

You tend to perceive yourself as:

  • Unrealistically helpless, fragile, weak, vulnerable. (Inferior.)
  • Unrealistically self-sufficient, self-reliant, invulnerable. (Superior.)
  • Undeserving or incapable of emotional or physical intimacy.
  • Undeserving or incapable of a happy, trusting, secure relationship.
  • Unable to be yourself because you fear being “exposed” and rejected.
  • Unable to “calibrate” your trust based on others’ trustworthiness.

Okay. There are 18 researched characteristics of how mistrust can be caused and how doubt shows itself in relationships. These lists are not exhaustive. 

Not everything in these lists will apply to you.

Can you identify with some things on those lists? Are you already connecting some dots? Be bold. Be honest. Consider the role trust plays in your life and how trust plays out in your relationships.

Be gentle with yourself.

Trust can get warped by things you had absolutely no control over in your past. You may not even realize how they’ve affected you and your relationships. Believe me when I say I’m genuinely sorry. Trust me when I say the way forward with healthy trust is something you DO have control over. 

⇨ There might have been some trustworthy people in your life who you couldn’t bring yourself to trust. It’s not a pleasant realization. But you can have “reality-based” relationships built on earned, healthy, mutual trust. ⇦

Addressing Trust Issues: 

Daring To Move From Invulnerable To Vulnerable

1. It starts with you deciding what it looks like for YOU to be a trustworthy person.

Set the bar in your own life. This will be the standard you use to judge the trustworthiness of others. What does this look like? Be honest, reliable, dependable and loyal. Allow yourself to be open and available to the people who count on you. Be the kind of person you would trust.

2. Remember the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.

Individuals who don’t have “trust issues” still have to navigate trust problems. Interpersonal relationships are inherently risky, and that’s okay. Yes, the closer you get to people (and the closer you allow people to get to you), there is a greater chance to be hurt. (Strangers and acquaintances usually aren’t close enough to inflict much damage. But that’s the point – can you find a healthy way to let people deeper into your life?)

3. Learn the difference between healthy boundaries and unwarranted walls.

Emotionally isolating yourself from people is an attempt to protect yourself from hurt. In reality, blocking out potentially hurtful people also keeps out potentially healthy people who could help you and enrich your life. (They both use the same door. Having healthy boundaries is like having a smart, muscular bouncer letting the right people in.)

4. Get in the habit of telling yourself the truth about yourself.

This is your “inner voice.” Use it to speak truth about yourself to yourself. As you become confident and comfortable in your own skin, you’ll approach relationships from a place of hope, not fear.

5. Take it slow with people you don’t know.

If someone hasn’t demonstrated their trustworthiness, don’t invest your thoughts & emotions, your history & hopes in them just yet. Invest yourself in small, appropriate amounts and watch how they respond. 

6. If past traumas create problems in your present life and relationships, get the help you need.

You may need to acknowledge and process some things in your past with the assistance of a professional. Consider this an investment in yourself. [Check out this list of counseling and mental health resources.]

The pain you feel from the people who betrayed and hurt you is real. What you do with that pain is critical. 

You can hold its weight close to your core and allow its gravity to pull on and distort all your relationships. Or you can learn from it and let it go. Sometimes people are deliberately deceptive. Sometimes people change or just turn out to be different than we expected. But some people are honorable and dependable and bring delightful things into our lives. Even though you’ve been burned before, be courageous. Try to make room in your heart for hope.

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” – Carl Bard

Sources:

[1] Effective Engagement Requires Trust and Being Trustworthy

    Trustful Behavior Is Meaningful Behavior

    10 Benefits of Happy Relationships

    Trust In Contemporary Society

    Do You Trust Your Partner? | Psychology Today

    NIMH: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope With Traumatic Events

    Study Explores Trust In Online Gamers’ Psychology

Resources:

How To Tell If Someone Is Trustworthy – First Things First

Trust is a Most Precious Commodity – First Things First

15 Ways: How To Build Trust In A Relationship

4 Things You’re Actually Saying When You Say You Have Trust Issues

Relationship Anxiety: Signs, Causes, & 8 Ways to Overcome

Image from Pexels.com

How to Forgive Yourself

Learning from your mistakes allows you to move forward.

Forgiveness is often defined as letting go of feelings of resentment, anger, or bitterness toward someone who has wronged you. Forgiving others can be tough. But we all can forgive. While you may be able to forgive others, how are you at forgiving yourself for mistakes you’ve made or wrongs you’ve committed?

Forgiving yourself requires empathy, compassion, kindness, and understanding. We all make mistakes. However, there is power in acknowledging, learning from, and moving beyond our mistakes. 

Why should I forgive myself?

Forgiving yourself is a big deal for your own personal growth. When you forgive yourself, you improve your self-image. Studies have shown that those who practice self-forgiveness experience lower levels of depression and anxiety, too. 

Forgiving also impacts your physical health. Research shows that forgiveness can reduce blood pressure and improve heart health.

How do I forgive myself?

Dr. Marilyn Cornish proposed a four-step approach to self-forgiveness, suggesting key actions that can be helpful:

  • Responsibility
  • Remorse
  • Restoration
  • Renewal

Kendra Cherry, MS, offers further insight on Cornish’s approach to forgiving yourself. Here’s a summary of her work.

Accept Responsibility

Some say you just have to forgive and forget, but Cherry says it’s about more than forgetting the past and moving on. The keys are to accept what happened and show compassion to yourself. It may be the hardest step in self-forgiveness, but acknowledging and accepting what you’ve done is a huge step forward. It’s rarely easy for anyone to look in the mirror and see their own mistakes.

Show Remorse

Even after you accept responsibility, you may be overcome with negative feelings like guilt and shame. Believe it or not, it’s normal and healthy to feel guilty when you’ve wronged someone. Cherry says that feeling guilty lets you know you’re a good person who has made a mistake or wronged someone, so it can lead to positive change.

On the other hand, shame makes you feel like your whole self is wrong. Left unchecked, shame and feelings of worthlessness can lead to addiction, depression, or aggression.

Mistakes are just those: mistakes. Remember that your mistakes don’t define you or make you a bad person.

Apologize and Restore Trust

Apologizing and repairing damage is vital to forgiveness. Cherry says this is just as important when you are forgiving yourself. Apologizing shows that you recognize the mistake and feel bad for what you’ve done. Offering an apology to someone you’ve wronged allows you to start rebuilding trust with them. It also enables you to work through the guilt and restore confidence in yourself.

Focus on Renewal

Cherry acknowledges that we all make mistakes and have some regrets, but she notes that it isn’t helpful to focus on those things. In fact, an unhealthy focus can damage your self-esteem and self-worth. Self-forgiveness allows you to move beyond your mistakes and grow.

One of my favorite movie lines is from Batman Begins. Alfred looks at Bruce Wayne and, quoting Bruce’s father, says, “Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Making mistakes is a normal part of life. We’re all guilty of it, but what matters is that we learn from our mistakes and move forward.

A little side note on self-forgiveness…

Self-forgiveness is important when reflecting on your mistakes and ways you’ve wronged others. However, people who have suffered abuse, trauma, or loss may also feel shame and guilt even though they could not control what happened to them. Hear me say this: You are not responsible for forgiving yourself for what someone else did to you. If you need help, a counselor can help you walk through processing the guilt, shame, and pain you’ve experienced.

Other blogs:

Questions Couples Can Ask To Improve Communication – First Things First

Is Conflict in Marriage Inevitable? – First Things First

7 Ways to Increase Trust in Marriage – First Things First

To learn more about self-forgiveness, check out these resources:

How to Forgive Yourself

What Is Self-Forgiveness and Why Is It Important To Your Mental Health?

Sources:

Taking the Steps to Forgive Yourself

Sarah J. Peterson, Daryl R. Van Tongeren, Stephanie D. Womack, Joshua N. Hook, Don E. Davis & Brandon J. Griffin (2017) The benefits of self-forgiveness on mental health: Evidence from correlational and experimental research, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12:2, 159-168.

Marillyn A. Cornish, Nathaniel G. Wade (2015) A Therapeutic Model of Self-Forgiveness With Intervention Strategies for Counselors, Journal of Counseling and Development, 93:1, 96-104.

Kyler R. Rasmussen, Madelynn Stackhouse, Susan D. Boon, Karly Comstock & Rachel Ross (2019) Meta-analytic connections between forgiveness and health: the moderating effects of forgiveness-related distinctions, Psychology & Health, 34:5, 515-534.

5 Things To Do When Everything’s Falling Apart

One single step can lead you in the right direction.

“Nothing is certain except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin nailed it. But I think he forgot one more inevitability… change. 

Change will undoubtedly happen multiple times throughout your life. Some changes are planned, like taking a new job or moving. Some changes are unplanned, like losing a loved one or a job. 

When unexpected change hits hard, we often feel like life is falling apart.

The idea of life falling apart in and of itself is very subjective and personal. There’s no standard for what it looks like. I have felt like everything was falling apart several times, whether in my marriage, work, or family dynamics.  My experience may not reflect yours, though. Everyone’s experience is unique. 

Even though your world falling apart may look different from mine, certain things can help us cope. 

Here are five things you can do when everything’s falling apart:

1. Take a break.

Hear me out; I don’t mean give up on your responsibilities and walk away. Just take some time for yourself. Once you identify what makes you feel like everything is falling apart, can you step away to clear your mind? Maybe you’re caring for a sick loved one. Can someone else step in and give you a weekend to rest and refocus? Maybe work is chaotic. Can you take time off? Perhaps your relationship is in distress. Can you spend some time with a friend to decompress and enjoy some activities together?

Sure, you have responsibilities that you can’t give up on, but what would happen if you took a couple of days off to focus on your mental and emotional health?

2. Embrace the present.

Pain from the past or worries about the future often leads us down this path. It’s so easy to be dominated by these two time periods and lose the present. I get it. But you know what? The present is a gift. It’s where life happens. Unfortunately, we can’t change the past and we have no control over the future. However, we can live in this moment. 

If you’re seeking help in navigating the chaos, I applaud you. You’re strong enough to make it through whatever you’re facing. In the wise words of Ted Mosby, “Sometimes things fall apart to make way for better things.” (I love that guy!)

3. Connect with others.

There is power in community. It can be tempting to retreat and insulate yourself from others, but you need people. The weight you carry isn’t meant to be carried alone. Maybe you only feel comfortable being completely vulnerable with a small number of friends or family. Connect with those people and ask for help. Help may look like a cup of coffee or a shoulder to cry on. Help may look like wisdom from someone who’s fought the same battle you’re fighting. Either way, you don’t have to walk this road alone.

4. Evaluate what you can control.

When everything is falling apart, the one thing you may desire most is beyond your reach: control. If we’re honest, we probably all want control. When life is spiraling, control is often unattainable. Maybe the lack of control is what led to everything falling apart. 

Some things are simply out of your control. 

Step back and ask yourself, “What can I control?” The health of others, the people you work for, or your partner’s emotional state are just a few examples of things you can’t control. You can control how you react to people and what you focus on. 

5. Practice self-care.

Self-care is a common buzzword. It can be easy to brush it off as something unimportant that you don’t have time for. Sure, self-care is trendy, but that’s because more experts have recognized that paying attention to your needs can improve your well-being. 

So take care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Self-care is also subjective, so you have to find what works for you. I run for self-care. It heals me and is a necessity. On the other hand, my wife loves to craft, whether that’s painting, drawing, or creating with her Cricut. 

Don’t get discouraged when something doesn’t work. Keep trying until you discover what is beneficial for you.

It’s not easy to get life back on track when it feels like everything’s falling apart. It may seem daunting, but you can do this. You’re strong! The most extraordinary journey begins with a single step.

Other helpful blogs:

What to Do When Everything Feels Hopeless – First Things First

5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time

What to Do When You Feel Compassion Fatigue

Sources:

How To Stay Grounded When Your Life is Falling Apart

The Only Thing That Matters When Your Life is Falling Apart in 2022

What To Do When it Feels Like Your Life is Falling Apart

9 Things To Do When Your Life is Falling Apart

What to Do When You Feel Compassion Fatigue

Here are some ways to take the proper steps to care for yourself as you care for others.

Have you ever felt like you’ve cared so much you just can’t anymore? Like you’re exhausted from taking care of others? Even if you’ve never heard of compassion fatigue, you may be familiar with what it is. Maybe more familiar than you’d like.

What is compassion fatigue?

Psychologist Charles Figley says it’s “a state of exhaustion and dysfunction, biologically, physiologically and emotionally, as a result of prolonged exposure to compassion stress.”

In essence, it’s feeling like you have no more empathy to give.

Compassion fatigue is most often associated with health care workers, first responders, law enforcement, therapists and at-home caregivers. But we’re all at risk of feeling this way.

Let’s face it: Life can be downright draining. 

Caring for sick or aging loved ones may be wearing you out. Perhaps you’re tired of giving grace to your spouse. Maybe you don’t feel like you have anything left to give your kids. The non-stop flow of information about the suffering around the world can overwhelm you. All these things (and more) can contribute to a feeling of emotional exhaustion.

The root of compassion fatigue is in caring for others.

It would be easy to confuse compassion fatigue with burnout, but they’re a bit different. According to the American Institute of Stress, burnout is marked by emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with cumulative stress at work. [Read https://firstthings.org/7-ways-to-prevent-burnout/.]

Compassion fatigue occurs because of the emotional strain of supporting those who are suffering from something traumatic. It is rooted in caring for others. It’s not just a workplace thing, but it can co-exist with burnout, especially for those in service professions.

Look for these symptoms.

Some symptoms of compassion fatigue are:

  • Physical and psychological exhaustion
  • Feeling helpless, hopeless, or powerless
  • A decreased sense of personal and professional accomplishment
  • A change in your worldview or spirituality
  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • A dramatic withdrawal from social connections

Since compassion fatigue affects your mental and physical health, it also impacts the quality of your relationships with your partner, children, friends, and co-workers.

Remember, caring for yourself properly can help you care effectively for others. So, if (or when) you find that you’ve run out of empathy to give, understanding how to combat those feelings can help you move forward. 

Fighting Compassion Fatigue

Psychiatrist Yazhini Srivathsal, M.D., offers a few ways to combat compassion fatigue:

  • Follow general self-care guidelines – get plenty of sleep, eat well, exercise regularly, and nurture social relationships.
  • Practice gratitude and being engaged in the present moment.
  • Avoid information overload. If too much negative information stresses you out, take steps to decrease how much you consume.
  • Engage in activities that rejuvenate you.
  • Understand that pain and suffering are normal, and you have no control over them.
  • Focus on what you can control, like your thoughts and feelings. You may not be able to control what happens around you or to you, but you can control how you react.
  • If needed, seek professional help.

Helping others is an important component of healthy relationships. Your partner, your children, and your loved ones depend on you, and that can be overwhelming. When you feel compassion fatigue begins to set in, take the proper steps to care for yourself. If you see these signs in your loved ones, stepping in and offering to walk alongside them can alleviate some of their load.

Other helpful blogs:

What to Do When Everything Feels Hopeless – First Things First

How to Stay Motivated as a Parent – First Things First

How to Stay Motivated During Marriage Challenges – First Things First

5 Benefits of Being Thankful – First Things First

Sources:

Compassion Fatigue – The American Institute of Stress

Are You Suffering from Compassion Fatigue? | Psychology Today

Compassion Fatigue: Symptoms To Look For

Are you experiencing compassion fatigue?

Compassion Fatigue: Watch for These Warning Signs | Banner

5 Ways to Start the New Year Off Right

Reflection and intention can help you reach your goals.

One more year is almost in the rearview, and the countdown to the new year is on. Can you believe it? If you’re like me, you may already be thinking about new opportunities and goals to help you start the new year right.

If you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of “New Year’s Resolutions,” let me just state the obvious: There’s nothing significant about January 1 when it comes to goals. There is nothing magical about new year’s resolutions. In fact, research has found that only about 45% of people even make resolutions. (And 35% of those who do quit them before the end of January.)

So, are they even worth it? While resolutions may not be the most successful, there is a lot of benefit in setting goals for yourself. Goals can help you become who you want to be, provide stability and drive you. January 1 gives you a good starting point. The calendar flips to another year, and it’s often seen as a fresh start. 

But, how do we start the new year off right?

1. Reflect on the previous year. 

Healthy things grow. Healthy people are no different, but to grow, we have to see where we are. Start by looking back at the previous year and ask yourself:

What went well last year?

What did I accomplish?

How did my life improve?

What goals did I abandon? Why?

What hurdles did I overcome?

What do I wish I had spent more time doing?

2. Ask yourself, “What do I want to improve upon and why?”

You have the best opportunity to achieve the goals you set for yourself. Be careful not to set your goals based on what another person or our culture says. Your goals are about your health, finances, career, relationships, or whatever you choose. No matter how good a goal is, the success rate is diminished if it’s set for the wrong reasons. Side note: There is no magical number of goals either. Maybe you just need to start with one and focus on it until you achieve it.

3. Set SMART goals.

Ever heard of a SMART goal? SMART is an acronym coined in the Management Review Journal in 1981. It means specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. It’s a business model for setting goals, but it translates well to other types. Here’s a brief explanation of a SMART goal:

  • Specific: Your resolution should be absolutely clear. Instead of “I want to get in better shape,” say, “I want to run a 5k in 3 months.”
  • Measurable: You need a way to measure your progress. Depending on your goal, you may have to search, but look for a tool to measure your progress. Choose a method that you’ll stick with.
  • Achievable: If it’s not attainable, you’ll probably give up too soon. Don’t try to jump too big, too fast. If there’s a big, lofty goal you want to achieve in the future, that’s great. Break it down into smaller goals and take those on. It’s a lot less daunting to say you want to lose 5 pounds in 2 months than to say you want to lose 50 pounds.
  • Relevant: Does the goal matter to you? Is this something you want, not anyone else?
  • Time-bound: Every goal needs a timeframe. The timeline must be realistic. Set a target achievement date and set benchmarks along the way. 

4. Build a support system.

Achieving goals is a lot easier when you surround yourself with people cheering you on. Come alongside friends or family, and all agree to share your goals and support each other. Accountability will push you to keep at it. If you need to, find an online group with similar goals and journey together.

5. Write it down.

This seems simple, but there’s power in writing your goals, perhaps in your planner or on a sticky note in a prominent place. Make sure they are somewhere highly visible so you can read them over and over. And you can check off that goal once you achieve it. 

Go ahead and set those goals for the new year. But take the time to make a plan. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” 

Other resources:

Gratitude Challenge

How Failed New Year’s Resolutions Can Affect Marriages – First Things First

Relationship Resolutions – First Things First

10 Resolutions for a Healthy Marriage – First Things First

How to Stop a Conversation Without Hurting the Relationship

Thinking about a way out ahead of time can help you be prepared to make an exit.

Picture this: You’re having an EXHAUSTING conversation with extended family. There seems to be no easy or natural escape route, but you’ve got to get away for your own sanity. You know that stopping the conversation can hurt the relationship. What do you do?

You may want to stop the conversation for several reasons:

  • The topic is too controversial, and it’s not worth potentially fracturing the relationship. (Religion, politics, social justice, morality, parenting, etc.)
  • It’s gotten too personal. (Unresolved issues, things you don’t want to share, topics you disagree on regarding how you live your life, and so on.)
  • It’s simply time to move on. You have other commitments or people to talk to.
  • The conversation feels like gossip. 
  • Your history with this person leads you to believe that this convo won’t end well.
  • You don’t feel equipped to talk about the topic.

I’m sure you can come up with all kinds of reasons you’d want or need to stop a conversation.

If you’re like me, you work hard to avoid hurting others – and sometimes end up talking too long and wasting time. This can lead to resentment or simply lost interest in the relationship because you hope you don’t run into that person. Why? Because you know the conversation will go ON and ON and ON if you do. 

But maybe you’re like some friends of mine who can be overly blunt. They don’t care if they hurt your feelings. So they may say:

I ain’t got time for all this. I’ll talk to you later.”

“I’m not about to have this conversation with you.”

“I knew better than to try and talk to you about this.”

Let’s say that you want to bow out gracefully, but you’re not sure how. All you know is that you want to stop the conversation without hurting the relationship or someone’s feelings. 

But first, here’s an important thing for you to consider: “Why would stopping the conversation hurt the relationship?” 

Knowing the “correct” answer to this question may not be as important as considering the possibilities.

Would the person feel rejected? Dismissed?

Is it about the loss of control?

Considering how and why stopping the conversation could hurt the relationship can help you end conversations with empathy. It can also show that you care about the person and the relationship. 

Remember, every situation and every relationship is different. The culture of the relationship often dictates what’s most effective. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Preparing to Stop the Conversation

  • Allow others to speak their mind and get their thoughts out. Resist the need to interrupt others to express your rebuttal or opinion. 
  • Own your need to exit the conversation.
  • Be confident in your conversational boundaries (and why you have them).
  • Value the relationship over the conversation.

If you want out of the conversation, you can start with:

“What you said leaves a lot to think about. I truly value this relationship, and I don’t want you to think I’m trying to just dismiss you or your thoughts, however…” 

These words express that you heard them and that you value the relationship. It also shows empathy.:.

The reason for ending the conversation may determine what you say next.

Are you ending the conversation because…

  • You have something else you need to do?
  • It’s too emotional?
  • Controversial topic?
  • You don’t feel heard?
  • __________ ? Fill in the blank

If so, you may finish the statement with:

“…I have a prior commitment, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to the people there.”

“…this conversation is more than I’m ready for right now. Will you respect my wishes to talk about something else?”

“… this type of conversation rarely ends well. Can we talk about something else?” (It helps to have another topic in your back pocket.)

“…can we talk about this when I’m in a better position to talk?”

The truth is, even though you might do everything in your power to be honest, empathetic, and kind, the other person can still feel hurt. But you can’t control how someone responds when you do what you believe is best for you and the relationship. All you can do is rest in knowing that you did your part. Hopefully, others can give you the space you need for your own well-being and let the conversation end on a good note.

Other blogs:

What to Do When You Disagree With Your Spouse

4 Ways to Have Difficult Conversations During the Holidays

What To Do When Your Family Disagrees About Politics – First Things First

The Good Conversationalist: The Basics (by Emily Post Etiquette)

How To Avoid Stress This Holiday Season

These things can help you navigate the season with more peace.

Holidays are wonderful times of the year, but it’s easy to get caught up in trying to make each one the “best” holiday ever. A lot of holiday stress comes from that expectation. Although we all want to avoid holiday stress, it usually shows up in different ways. It may look like wanting to purchase the perfect gifts, decorating your home immaculately, or preparing the food that everyone loves. Let’s face it, stress happens! But there are some ways you can try to avoid it.

Here are some tips for avoiding stress and bringing “happy” back to the holidays.

Create and utilize healthy boundaries.

Boundaries are limits or rules that we set for ourselves or others, and keeping those can help minimize holiday stress. You don’t have to attend every party you are invited to. Respecting the boundary of your time allows you to decide what activities you want to participate in during the holidays. When you embrace your money boundary, you choose what gifts to purchase and how much to spend. Healthy holiday boundaries can save time and strengthen relationships.

Create a schedule that works for you.

Schedules can often go by the wayside during the holiday season. We become overwhelmed with things to do. When thinking about your holiday calendar, remember to keep your daily routines on it. Making time to exercise, get enough rest, and give yourself time for a break when you need it is essential.

Examine your priorities.

Many people try to do it all for the holidays. However, it’s hard to do it all and keep your wits about you. Take time to examine what matters most to you by asking yourself some questions:

What’s the most essential part of the holiday to me?

What memories do I want to make this year?

What am I unwilling to do?

Once you’re aware of your priorities, you get to choose and adapt. For example, let’s say your focus is spending time with your family. You all have a tradition of going to hear your local symphony orchestra play, but you don’t have to do that because you always have. Maybe this year, your family has a holiday bake-off instead. The main thing is that your family spends time together, not how.

Presence, not perfection.

Media has created so much pressure around the holidays. And sometimes we do it to ourselves.

Perfect tree, perfectly decorated. 

Perfect gifts for family and friends. 

You have to host the perfect holiday party with the ideal menu. 

Do you feel the stress yet? 

If your priority is spending time with your family, it’s presence, not perfection, that matters. I’m not saying you shouldn’t put up a tree, host a party or get gifts if you want to. I am saying that prioritizing your family means creating memories and moments by being there. You can choose to slow down and be present in the moment. Don’t miss your moments.

Choose to see the positive. 

Your perspective on the holidays can determine how much holiday stress impacts you. You already know that holiday stress will occur, but you get to choose whether you see the holidays as a half-full or half-empty glass. Your perspective allows you to be willing and open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Whether your holidays are a great time with family or you’re glad it’s over because you don’t have to see some of “those people” until next year depends on your perspective. 

The holidays can be times of fun, family, food, and sharing life together. They can also be filled with overwhelming expectations. Deciding how you spend your holidays NOW can help you navigate the season with less stress. I hope you’ll be able to look back and feel good about the time with your family – which is what the holidays are really about.

Other blogs:

How to Connect at Family Mealtimes

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6 Ways to Keep a Conversation From Getting Derailed

Deepen your relationships by how you handle conversations.

Holidays are supposed to be a time of love and joy when you gather and celebrate family, friends, and traditions. Those celebrations can easily be derailed when you find yourself in an uncomfortable or controversial conversation. 

There’s no shortage of hot topics to navigate around if you want to have a peaceful gathering with friends and family. But try as you may, you just might find yourself discussing a divisive issue. You know you and a loved one aren’t on the same page about this topic, and you’re ok with that, but you probably don’t want a conversation to hurt the relationship. So, how do you stop the conversation before it goes too far?

Kathleen Kelley Reardon, a professor at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, notes that “conversations are building blocks of relationships.” They have the power to build up or tear down relationships. 

Here are six of Reardon’s strategies to help you get a negative conversation back on track (just in time for the holidays):

1. Shine a different light on what’s being said.

If the other person says, “I don’t want to fight about this,” you can reply with, “I don’t want to fight either. Let’s have a discussion.” A discussion is seen as more civil. A conversation that evolves into an argument causes both people to put their guard up. A discussion, on the other hand, invites more listening. 

2. Rephrase what’s being said.

Instead of calling someone stubborn, call them persistent or determined. If they say, “You’ve got a lot to say,” you might respond, “I’m passionate about this subject and want to make sure every side is heard.” If offensive words are used, rephrase them positively.

3. Reflect on a positive past experience. 

Relationships are full of positive and negative interactions. A present negative doesn’t have to tear down a mostly positive past. If you need to pump the brakes, you might say, “We’ve had such a good relationship, but something has us out of sync. I know we can work this out in a positive way.”

This shows the other person that you value and want to protect what you have with them.

4. Clarify what you heard by restating what the other person said.

We’re all guilty of speaking faster than our brain can work. I know I’ve said plenty of hurtful things that I wish I could take back. If you think they have mistakenly said something painful, ask them, “Did you mean what I think I heard?” Give them the benefit of reconsidering and rephrasing what they said.

5. Ask a question.

Maybe your friend or family member didn’t mean to intentionally hurt or insult you. Perhaps they chose words too quickly. Ask, “Would you clarify what you just said?” Try not to assume they are determined to cause you harm. Give the relationship the benefit of the doubt.

6. Revisit the conversation at a later time.

There’s nothing wrong with bluntly saying, “I don’t think either of us is at our best right now. Can we pause this conversation and revisit it another day? I don’t want this to hurt our relationship.” Your consideration for the person is more valuable than who wins the discussion. Choose to protect the relationship.

Remember, conversations are building blocks to help us get to know each other better. They are how we deepen and develop relationships. Do what you can to keep one heated exchange from destroying a lifelong relationship. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be correct, but do you want to be right, or do you want to be in a relationship? You can’t always have both.

Other blogs:

What To Do When Your Family Disagrees About Politics

What to Do When You Disagree With the Ones You Love

How to Have a Disagreement with a Friend without Ending Your Friendship

Sources:

www.kathleenkelleyreardon.com

7 Things to Say When a Conversation Turns Negative