Saturday, October 9, 2010

Say "No Thanks" to Holiday Negativity

I was on Cat’s Tales, a blog talk radio show last night. The discussion was on the importance of optimism and how to overcome negativity. I hope you can listen in. Here’s the link.

One of the tips I give in the valiant quest to overcome grouchiness is to avoid nasty people. This is easier said than done, particularly during the holidays when forced family gatherings are the norm. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sometimes even Halloween can be a time when you are face to fork with negative folks who share your DNA.

I wouldn’t say my relatives are particularly negative, although a few are. However, the sarcasm gene runs strong in my family. In fact I think I got a double dose of it. For instance, my mother was a lousy cook. She preferred cigarettes and coffee to developing any culinary skills, so we all assumed food came in two varieties – raw and burnt. She was the butt of numerous jokes. When one of us wanted the bowl of mashed potatoes we would ask, “One lump or two.”

Now the tables have turned and I am the recipient of a few unkind witticisms. The story of my attempt at making gravy for our Thanksgiving feast will live forever in my in-law’s hearts. The darn gravy wouldn’t thicken and not being a patient cook, I shoveled enough flour in the pot to stock a shelf in Walmart. Anyway, the gravy bubbled into some strange mass and I tell everyone it is now a sculpture in the backyard.

I take the kidding in stride because I do not define myself by my expertise as a chef. Gravy is not a regular item on the menu at the house. I grew up on the stuff, but once I left home I rarely made it. If I’m going to clog my arteries, I’d rather do it with chocolate. So it doesn’t hit a nerve if people want to tease me about my cooking.
However, other sarcastic jibes hit closer to the bone. Family favorites were my quest for a job. It took me 13 years to earn my Bachelor’s degree in journalism and after I graduated I searched in vain for 9 months before I landed my first professional job. Once I had the job nobody asked me about it, but while I was unsuccessful in my attempts, the queries abounded.

That was a long time ago. Since that time I have acquired better coping skills, I’ve developed a more positive outlook, and I learned a few pointers that I would like to share with you.

• If someone has a negative comment, ask for their help in solving it. If they think you’re too fat, ask them to walk with you after dinner. Or better yet, tell them you have a two for one coupon to join a gym and you would love for them to accompany you.
• If someone wants to gossip about a family member (usually someone who isn’t there to defend themselves) simply say: “I do not think it is kind or gracious to talk about someone who isn’t here to defend themselves. Does anyone have something more positive we can discuss?”
• If the conversation gets snippy, suggest a new tradition. Go around the table and ask everyone to say one thing they are grateful for. This is the point of Thanksgiving. If they disagree, kindly ask them why everyone gathers together for the holidays. If it is to moan and groan, then let the snippy ones have their own holiday. The moan and groan dinner fest. Unfortunately, you will not be attending.
• Confront with compassion. Many folks do not realize what they are saying is hurtful. Gently call them on it. “Aunt Sue, I love and admire you very much and I know you would never intentionally say anything to hurt me, but I feel your comment about (name it) was unkind. We suffer enough from the negativity in the world from strangers. Why don’t we use this family gathering as a time to help, nourish and be kind to one another?”

These tips may not turn instantly turn the trauma and drama of family gatherings into a love fest, but it is a start.

My last tip is totally self-serving, but my intent to help is sincere.

• Purchase numerous copies of my new book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within and give it to friends and family members for the holidays. It’s $12.99 on Amazon. It should be available mid October 2010. If you’re in a hurry, shoot me an email at and I can have one shipped out right away. You can also get one through and I will donate $1 from each book to help fight skin cancer.

Please remember, we (and our friends and family) did not become negative overnight. It is a habit that was learned. Erasing negativity is a habit that can be learned as well. Why not start now? You don’t have to erase negativity every day, just on the days that you eat.

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