Saturday, November 22, 2008

Who You Calling a Turkey?

I heard a story that someone asked a Polish citizen living under the communist regime if he regarded his Russian comrades as friends or family. “ Family,” he quickly responded. “You can choose your friends.” Now with Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us will be face to fork with family and in-laws who may put us in a “fowl” mood (okay, okay, no more of bad turkey puns in this blog entry.)

So how does one face these challenges and keep an optimistic attitude?

I think the biggest defense is a sweet offense. And I don’t mean shoving pumpkin pie up their nose. Try to disarm those negative Nellies with kindness. If someone asks, “Did you get a job yet?” Smile sweetly and ask, “How kind of you to ask. Do you know of someone who is hiring in my field?” If they know something – great! If they don’t, they’ll keep their mouths shut once they realize you want them to be part of the solution, and not just someone who rubs salt in a wound.

When I’m coaching groups or individuals, I tell them I’ll listen to their complaints for 10 minutes, then I want to hear some solutions. Complaints without a plan of action is a waste of time and oxygen. So when people complain, ask for a solution. If Aunt Martha tells you that you’re too fat, ask her if she would like to join you for a walk around the block after dinner. If Uncle Charlie won’t put an end to his political rant, suggest he write a letter to the editor. You may want to keep a pad of paper and a few pens on you and have them ready – just in case.

There is no doubt that some relatives are nasty. But in all fairness, most have no idea they are being jerks. They are probably ignorant, jealous or insecure. A happy person gains nothing from causing another human being pain. So if someone is mean, chances are they are unhappy - plain and simple. But don’t let sympathy be an agent to help them induct you into their army of negativity. Smile, try a little kindness and march away.

And I’ll be honest, none of these suggestions are a cure all. Erasing negativity is going to be a life-long process. However, the more you practice the steps to overcome your negative tendencies, the easier it will be to let the magic of happiness into your life. In the meantime, hang out with positive folks as much as possible and gird your loins for the unavoidable family get togethers when they do come up.

To sum things up, when friends or family members push those buttons this holiday season, respond with kindness, a request for help, and a little compassion. Aunt Agnes may act like a nasty old bitty, but isn’t there something she did or does that deserves a compliment? The truth is, a hefty serving of kindness is most needed by those who don’t have any to give. So this Thanksgiving, be kind, be thankful for the blessings you have, and pray that more people will learn from your gracious example.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great advice!