The holidays can be exciting, filled with presents, loved ones, and food. However, for some, there are some relationship challenges. Luckily, the strategies and tips used to help keep our mates and dates happy throughout the year can also get you through the holidays. Those same social skills could smooth things out with cranky relatives, out-laws and in-laws. As you head into the holiday season, here are some tips for healthy relationships during the holidays.

Keep conversations authentic and caring.

Most people would like to keep their interactions with others optimistic during the holiday season. Still, some people end up standing silently in the corner at parties, while others get into disagreements with that politically opinionated distant cousin. Rapport-building and good conversation require a balance between being warm, empathetic, and genuine. So try to share your feelings and engage with others, but be open to hearing and accepting other perspectives.

If this is a problem for you, try to be curious and open about other people’s lives. This mindset will keep you from getting too worried or anxious about how other people are evaluating you or being too judgmental about them. It might also help to use helpful communication techniques, like using “I” statements, telling stories with enthusiasm, and showing appreciation for others. Between being curious about other people’s lives and sharing some good stories about your year, you’ll be ready to enjoy any holiday function.

Don’t manipulate.

All relationships are an exchange in some fashion. However, these trades take on a convenient form during the holidays with different promises, presents, and favors. These actions can be excellent signs of gratitude and affection, but they can also be manipulative. Specifically, when doing holiday exchanges, there are some manipulative ways you should avoid. For example, don’t make promises to others that you or they won’t keep, even if it soothes them at the moment. You should also set boundaries with people who take from you without reciprocating and be respectful with your requests. It would be best to refuse any gift with “strings attached” or that makes you uncomfortable. This will go a long way to keep your holidays guilt and stress-free.

Forgive and reconcile.

Everyone will be crammed together for the holidays, so emotions are bound to run high. Despite our best attempts at exchange and conversation, anyone can bring up issues and old slights. It may be tempting to participate in some holiday-righteous anger. However, punishment won’t solve anything in these situations.

Instead of being angry, forgive others when you should and try to diffuse arguments. When arguments arise, acknowledge the other person’s perspective, focus on what you like about the relationship and suggest positive ways to get along. If they’ve been hurtful, share your feelings politely and tell them how they can begin to rebuild the relationship. This strategy might not solve every argument, but concentrating on the positive and healthy parts of the relationship will make rebuilding possible if necessary.

Honor your differences.

Healthy relationships can respect differences instead of turning to grudges and resentment. The holidays can emphasize differences in relationships more than any other time of year. This sentiment is true for romantic relationships as well since the holidays require decisions about family visits, travel, and money. Happy couples know how to honor differences within their relationship, making it easier to speak openly with each other and make decisions that work for everybody. Try to talk to each other with the knowledge that you’re different people and communicate without blame or judgment as much as possible.

Change your idea of perfection.

Building up an idea of how the holidays should feel and look is expected. However, when the ideal vision strays from perfection, which is highly likely, it can lead to blame and disappointment in relationships. Hence, it’s best to keep an open mind during the holidays. Expect that even if others don’t respond the way you want or share your point of view, it’s okay. That’s how life goes, and you might even enjoy how the situation changes. Live in the moment and appreciate the positive things as they come.

Listen before you respond.

Listening to others is more challenging than you’d think. Everyone has a lot going on in their minds at once, especially during the holidays. It’s alluring to think about drifting into another thought while someone is talking or what we’ll say next. Train yourself to give others your undivided attention and emphasize listening without responding. Avoid distractions, like the TV or your phone, and make eye contact, asking questions when the other person is done talking. This is a great way to encourage healthy relationships with your family and friends.

Appreciate and reward.

The holidays are the time of year to share with others, be grateful for their efforts, and acknowledge what they mean to us. Practically, that means showing our sentiments and appreciation for others by giving the perfect gift. Simple gift-giving tips can assist in that endeavor, like paying attention to what others want and need and having some extra gifts ready for unexpected guests.

On a psychological level, gifts also serve as rewards that inspire others’ behavior. Adults aren’t so worried about being on Santa’s naughty list, but holiday gifts still impact us. Therefore, it would be best to pick gifts that show you appreciate others and communicate your gratitude.

Healthy relationships are hard to maintain, especially during the holiday season. You’re around family members you don’t see often and could have issues communicating. However, the holidays are when you’re supposed to come together and appreciate those around you.

Some people don’t have loved ones or families to spend the holidays with, so try your best to remain grateful. Try not to focus too hard on your idea of perfection and honor your differences without putting too much emphasis on them. It would also help to remember that authentic conversations are the way to build relationships. Hopefully, these tips will help you enjoy this time of year with the people you love and manage differences.

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