In October as I’m writing this, I’ve already had conversations with three other people expressing their desire to put up Christmas decorations as they’re anxious to usher this year out the door.
While most of us can agree that 2020 has been a strange and difficult year to be human, it’s also presented many polarizing issues. Does anyone really need a recap on what those issues are? You more than likely don’t need any reminders, since we’ve been bombarded from every angle with all manner of data and opinions, and the reality of living during a pandemic still weighs heavily on many of us. Is it any wonder we’re looking forward to a reason to celebrate?
The holidays are a time for celebration, but they can also be a time of great stress. This is particularly true during election years. In 2016, The New York Times found that thousands of families decided not to gather at all because of differences of opinion over politics – and I think 2020 has 2016 beat by a long shot.
There’s also a little something that happens in families around the holidays called “hypercoprescence,” which is the anxiety or negative feelings that can arise when you’re forced into closed quarters with family members after being apart for most of the year. Basically, it’s what can happen when you get a large dose of family in a short amount of time. If this sounds familiar, it’s because you probably experienced a bit of it when you were quarantined.
Now, let us all take a minute to lower those shoulders from under our ears, unclench our jaws, and breathe deeply. We’re moving on to the actionable portion next.
How do you come together as a family or group of friends when everyone seems to have a differing opinion? How do you not let it ruin your holiday gatherings? When there are differences of opinion, conflict can happen, and the only thing that’s in your control is your reaction. Most people don’t want to be hit with data and have no interest in changing their point of view.
Repeat after me: “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.” Learn the phrase. Use the phrase. Believe the phrase – because it is okay to disagree on things. It’s actually healthy to have different points of view; just don’t let those views drive you apart. The importance of coming together for the holidays is one thing everyone did agree on, so perhaps choosing to focus on that is more important than debating other issues.
“Communication is key” – how many times have we heard this phrase? It’s because it’s so very true. Many people think communication is just talking, but listening is perhaps a more important component. For many of us, especially this year, listening has been a hard thing to do. Listening with the intention of understanding rather than responding always seems to require a bit more effort on my part. What I’ve found, however, is the rewards that result from this effort are innumerable. In a year when we’re experiencing more stress and anxiety than usual, it can be even more difficult to pause before responding, or even to devote extra energy to simply listening, but it can go such a long way in a discussion.
Everyone has a “why” behind their beliefs. This holiday season, seek out the “why” and you may discover you have a more fruitful discussion. After all, the only thing we should be force-feeding ourselves and our families is another piece of delicious pie.
It’s been a year for the books, folks, and as Russ Harris wrote in The Happiness Trap, “Life gives the most to those who make the most out of what life gives.” If you’re reading this, then you made it through a year that was a tough one to survive – both literally and figuratively. Do not take that for granted as we move into the holiday season. Love those who are here, no matter what opinions they may have.
Mallory Moser is a freelance writer in Lafayette, LA