Do you feel yourself already getting filled with dread about spending time with your family over the holidays? You love the traditions and the time together, but you could do without the judgement over your parenting style, or the way your brother still acts like you’re twelve, or the lack of open communication about the things that really matter.
I find that family relationships, with their years of patterns and habits – both good and bad – can be one of the hardest places to practice flexibility. And yet, if you can find a way to be flexible with your family, and stretch to fully accept them just as they are, letting go of judgement, I think you’ll find that your relationships get a LOT easier.
Flexibility does NOT run in my family
My family is not flexible, either in the touch your toes way OR in the Thoughtfully Fit way. I will confess that I have a very hard time practicing flexibility with several members of my extended family. I love them, and I love having them in my life, but I spend a lot of time thinking about how I wish they would behave differently. And I hold judgement when they don’t do things the way I think is better!
One of the toughest issues for me is that my family does not like to deal with conflict openly. This has been true since always, and in many ways may have driven me towards a career of helping others communicate! But the truth is, they don’t feel comfortable with the way I operate all the time either. And so the best course of action is to accept each other exactly how we are, and not waste energy wishing things would be different. Even worse is trying to convince them of what they SHOULD do instead. I know it doesn’t work, I coach my clients around this all the time, but in the case of my own family I have a really hard time practicing what I preach.
Flexibility doesn’t change others, it just changes you
Several months ago, I finally decided that I was just not going to let myself be angry about a particular behavior of a family member. I realized it is just part of who this person is, I am never going to change him, and there is no sense in trying. And so, I stopped trying!
I was talking about this experience with my small coaching group, and someone said ‘So??? What happened?’ And the true answer was that nothing really changed EXCEPT how the behavior affected me. Everything else was exactly the same, but I felt better. I was calmer. And that is the magic of flexibility. It focuses exclusively on something YOU can control – your reaction to others. And the truth is, often when the negative reaction is gone, the behavior subsides. But even if not, YOU still feel better!
Pass the potatoes, not judgement
Do you really think your family members are all of a sudden going to be different? No, right? So let your hopes of this go, and instead focus on how you can accept them as they are. PAUSE and reflect on what is making you mad, THINK about what is at the root of that and how you could change your reaction, and then DO IT.
Does this mean that years of sibling rivalry will disappear? Or that your in-laws will become your new best friends? Absolutely not! But it means that you are more likely to have fun, instead of sitting there stewing about all the ways your family drives you nuts. And then you can just enjoy their bad jokes and good company.
Want to learn more about using Thoughtfully Fit to improve your relationships with your family and others? Join me at the BRAVA Thrive Career workshop on November 8 where I’ll be talking about Thoughtfully Fit: Leading Within Your Relationships.