Oh, the joy of family holidays. The time of the year that brings up those all-too-familiar feelings of warmth, hope, kinship, but often gradually leads to the pleasantries of irritation, frustration, and annoyance.
We're a generation that has learned to quickly use our phones to distract ourselves from uncomfortable situations, and instantly block, de-friend, or delete those who don't make us happy. But when it comes to our family, we're stuck with no digital tools of assistance.
We head home with high hopes for the season. Excitedly, we come equipped with riveting stories and Instagram pictures from the past year to share, derived from our honest enthusiasm for the chance to reconnect with loved ones. Yet somehow over the course of the visit, the tables begin to turn and we seem to find ourselves counting the hours until we can return to our "normal" lives.
As modern 20-somethings, the generational gaps between ourselves and our parents and relatives undoubtedly make us feel more distant than ever, but when it comes to the pressures to "just get along" over family holidays it's often more than that.
Maybe it's the irritation of extended family discussions in which our verbiage inevitably must revert back to a time before the mainstream understanding of text message lingo was prevalent. Or it's the recurring family debates dating back a decade that could be solved with a simple Google search. Or perhaps it's just the constant nagging of that relative who has miraculously managed to get this far in life acting more stubborn than a 2-year-old. Whatever the trigger, it's easy to lose your composure and forget how to act like you normally do: like a modern gentlemen.
For many millennials, on order to survive the holidays with family, you need to show up at your childhood doorstep with a little more than your suitcase, iPhone, and hope. I agree, an extra pre-travel therapy session, a handful of Xanax, or a few mini liquor bottles all sound like excellent buffers. But to truly keep your mental health in check you also need to walk in the door with tips on how to maintain your sanity.
If your family holidays tend to more closely resemble sardonic Someecards than airbrushed TV commercials, it's time to break the holiday idealization and make a change. After all, it's just another day.
This year you can do away with your group chat venting sessions and outlandish cry for help posts on Facebook using these five essential tips every millennial man need to survive the family holidays.
1. Show Up With Something To Contribute
No, this doesn't mean your dirty laundry or the pants you need Mom to sew. Instead find something, anything, to present as a gift the moment you walk in the door. Even a gift as simple as a memento from where you live or a bottle of wine will do the trick. Bringing home something to share with your family, is like starting the visit off with a peace offering.
2. Respond With Reason And Fact, Not Emotions
Don't give your little sister or new brother-in-law the satisfaction of toying with your emotions. When someone knowingly says something that can easily get under your skin, responding with pure emotion only let's them win. Instead, have a little restraint, and only respond to the facts in any statement, ignoring unnecessary adjectives or nit-picky undertones that are intentionally put in there to get a rise out of you. Also remember that if someone says something rude, it says more about them, then about you.
3. If Things Get Heated, Play "As If"' (They Were Strangers)
It's great to be comfortable around our families, but being so comfortable we toss etiquette and common courtesy out the window only leads to problems. When conversations get heated, try your best to respond to each person around the table as if they were strangers. Simply practice your most sincere smile and respond as if you are speaking to a random person, whose opinions you would normally let go in one ear and out the other. In this way, you will naturally maintain your confidence, respond more logically, and not take things as personally.
4. Accept Criticism Gracefully, By Finding The Positive
If you actually think you won't run into any criticism when you're home for the holidays, you're sorely mistaken. Your hair to your lifestyle choices can and usually will spark comments that aren't exactly kind. The best way to handle these situations is to spin the context and focus on something, anything positive you can find.
If your cousin tosses out a snarly "I can't believe you bought that," comment about your outfit, respond with something along the lines of, "I know New York has such a diverse shopping scene I never run out of new styles to try. Isn't it great?" Deflecting criticism in this manner, ensures no one will have the power to change the way you feel about yourself.
5. Use This One-Liner Before You Lose Your Cool
Keep this one in your back pocket. When a conversation is going too far off track and you see a potential argument mounting, simply say something along the lines of, "Oh wow, I didn't know people still thought that way."
So your mother asks you when you are going to get married because single men in their 30s are always unhappy as bachelors. Or your grandmother keeps making racist statements geared towards your date. Even worse, if dreaded politics start to enter the discussion. Simply say your one liner, and change the topic. This trick gets your point across just the way you want: It's nonchalantly graceful for one thing, but it also has the undertones of a mother hushing an inappropriate child (which may be just what the your family members need).
Find more motivational tips for modern men from Kara Kamenec on Faveable.com.