Unemployment + Holidays + Family = Stressed To The Max.
In a parody of seasonal favorite, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” one of The Twelve Pains of Christmas is facing the in-laws. Well, it isn’t just the in-laws that can be a pain, but your own family as well. Whether immediate or extended, your family has your best interest in mind. Or maybe they just like pushing your buttons. The holiday season is sure to do one thing: Bring everyone together, the in-laws and the outlaws. And, yes, you have to go. But you can make the time less agonizing.
One of the topics of conversation is sure to be your lack of employment. You can expect career advice, criticism and lots of questions. Facing this experience is enough to give you hives! But it doesn’t have to be this way. As someone who is search for a job, you can take steps to prevent attacks and make attending holiday gatherings pleasant. Planning ahead a little, instead of dreading it, will make family gatherings much better for you.
The key is to take the initiative and bring up the situation. Yes, you bring it up. By doing so, you take control of the matter because you have determined the ground rules beforehand. And you can certainly follow your own rules regardless of what others do or say. You will have to stand firm, but you can do it. This is a commitment to yourself.
When Dealing With Family Holidays…
Step 1: In the days leading up to the occasion, determine what you want people to know. Anticipate their questions. Because you know them so well, you can predict what comments they will have. This step is crucial to being prepared for any situation. Write it all down.
Step 2: Look at what you have written and take each statement one by one. Write down how you want to respond. Rewrite, tweak, then practice, practice, practice your responses. Out loud. It is very important to rehearse so you don’t forget any of the golden nuggets you worked so hard to obtain. You should be able to fluently recite the answers word for word or paraphrase them without missing a thought or idea.
Step 3: Pre-arrange a signal with a trusted ally. This will get you out of harm’s way in case someone grabs your attention and–despite all your best, most polite efforts to get away–won’t let you go. This signal should be subtle and discreet—remove your glasses, a tie or scarf, or tug your right ear, ala Carol Burnett. You don’t have to leave the gathering, just that person. It can be a life saver.
Step 4: When you arrive at the event, you get to choose the time and place to use your prepared statement. You can also choose which person you talk to first. Say what you have planned and don’t allow anyone to interrupt you. This is your time to say what needs to be said. When you finish, indicate that you are not open to discussion about it. It’s a party! By all means remain, calm and respectful. One more thing: Remain alcohol-free when you do this. It adds to your credibility.
Step 5: Enjoy the rest of the event! You will enjoy the rest of the event if you continue to stick to the commitment you made with yourself.
Gathering for the holidays is meant to be fun and enjoyable for everyone. But every family has ways of pushing its members’ buttons. Sometimes, it is all in good fun; other times, not so. This can be hurtful for the person on the receiving end, even when comments are intended to be in good fun or to be sincerely helpful. With a planning and patience, the holidays with family can be the happy times they are meant to be.
Enjoy the holidays and your family!
Arleen Bradley is a Certified Job Loss Recovery Coach, a Certified Career Management Coach and a Certified Job Search Strategist. She is the founder/coordinator of two job search networking groups in which over 225 people have obtained jobs – and is the author of the weekly career blog, Surviving Unemployment.
Family holiday dinner image from Shutterstock