A woman walking on cone shaped spikes

One of the things I’ve been working on is honoring myself. Leaning into conversations when it feels like I am able to remain whole, and if not, if that conversation requires that I contort, shrink or leave pieces of myself behind, I don’t lean in. I choose me instead. 

It’s taken me years to start to discover this discernment, to value my wholeness during hard conversations and to prioritize my peace. I find this ability to honor myself especially necessary during the holidays.  We often find ourselves sitting around a table with people with different beliefs and opinions, and the expectation is for merriment to override all of that. However, often, and this year especially, ideas clash.

We often find ourselves sitting around a table with people with different beliefs and opinions, and the expectation is for merriment to override all of that.

Our wounds are fresh. Our opinions are strong, and there is a distinct kind of frustration when it comes to division with those closest to us. Right now, though, what the world is grappling with and working through—what feels so on the surface for many of us—are things that have caused division and hurt. Racism, a global pandemic and an extremely tense political climate, these are not only things that have demanded to be felt and faced, but they are also things that leave us vulnerable and divided.

The question comes then, how do we navigate these hard conversations as they arise during the holidays with people we love and care about? A time where the expectation for joy is high, but the hard things are still with us. 

It’s a marathon not a sprint. For us to work through our points of division, we have to see each other, and we have to engage in healthy conversations. It’s not a sprint, and tackling it all over dinner, leaning into conversations that can potentially make us shrink or further divide us, that’s not in our long-term plans. 

For us to work through our points of division, we have to see each other, and we have to engage in healthy conversations.

Though each of us have different family dynamics and boundaries to navigate, here are a few practices to transcend those potentially divisive holiday conversations:

Offer a Solution

Offer a reminder to your family. At the end of the day, your relationships with one another and these topics matter. You care about finding common ground and understanding one another, but arguing and hashing it out it all in one night isn’t productive for anyone. 

If needed, try deescalating like this, “I’d love to spend quality time with you guys without arguing. Can we carve out time another day to discuss these things?”

Cultivate Connection 

The fabric of family is complicated, but within that, there are both points of connection and division. Before the holiday celebration begins, remember the unique nuances that bring you and your family together. If you go into the holiday seeking to build on and create positive connection, it is more likely to actually happen.

The fabric of family is complicated, but within that, there are both points of connection and division.

The ultimate bonus? Engaging in positive and intentional dialogue strengthens relationships, which in turn actually makes it easier to have those tougher conversations down the line. 

Don’t Give Opinions Too Much Power 

The opinions of others can be painful. There is no denying it. Words hurt. As a Black biracial woman, navigating the “opinions” some people have about my identity, how I should move through the world and what they expect of me, has been extremely painful. I know first-hand, as most do, it’s not just sticks and stones. Words hurt.

However, what I know to be true is that my wholeness remains intact regardless of the opinions of others. So, if you feel hurt and unseen this holiday season because of the painful beliefs of those sitting beside you, just know you are whole and appreciated. Though their words may hurt, your power is in your wholeness, and nobody can ever take that away from you.

How do you navigate hard conversations with family? How can you keep your peace this holiday season?

Image via Amanda Charchian, Darling Issue No. 7

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