No matter how much we enjoy family get-togethers, holiday parties or just more time at home with the kids, the holidays can add to a working woman and mother's stress. We naturally tend to be the keeper of the schedule, chief decorator and cook and purchasing agent for the whole family. The list of "to-dos" for the holidays for a mom can be as varied as making costumes for a Christmas pageant to preparing a feast for 20 people.
Holiday articles tend to focus on food, finances, stress and/or time management. All those topics are important and beneficial but there is one topic that can help with all of our holiday issues -- communication. Effective communication is a tool that can benefit us when we are trying to juggle family and manage all things holiday.
Practicing good communication can help both the speaker and the listener feel comfortable with the conversation. Expressing ourselves clearly can prevent misunderstandings by allowing others to know what we think or need. Relationships are built and maintained with family and others when we speak up without alienating or blaming others. Speaking without anger or blame also increases our chances of being heard and understood. Good communication can also reduce stress and frustration that comes when we do not clearly say what we mean.
Try applying these communication tips to your holiday planning and you might find that your stress level goes down and your enjoyment goes up.
1. First, take time to think about what you need or how you really feel before trying to express it. Too often we do not even know what we are trying to say which usually makes anything we say jumbled and hard to interpret.
2. Speak directly without hints. Being clear and specific prevents disappointment when people do not read our minds. It also helps us to resist the urge to use "guilt trip" tactics to manipulate people.
3. Respect the rights and feelings of others to avoid hurting the listener's dignity or feelings. While we are on this one, we need to remember that the other person has the right to express their feelings to us, too.
4. To express feelings without blame or causing the listener to become defensive, use "I" messages. This takes more effort and thought to communicate but can be useful when talking about difficult topics or concerns. The key to "I" messages is to avoid hidden "you" messages.
Practicing good communication skills can benefit us when we need help with the costs of a holiday meal or with the preparation of the meal. It can also assist us with the difficult family member, or it can aid us when we need to adjust plans or commitments. Good communication benefits us all year long and not just for the holiday season.
For more information on programs and tips for family life and holiday stress busters, contact the Garland County Extension Service at 501-623-6741 or email Alison Crane at [email protected].