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The holiday season is quickly approaching. Some may cheerfully approach this time with family traditions and quality time. Others may find anticipation and dread for what this season may bring for various reasons. Depending on the family, this anticipation can sometimes sour or haunt what is supposed to be a season of joy. It may be helpful to prepare and reflect on what you may be anticipating during family conversations during the holidays instead of falling into a situation with a family member that you prefer not to be in. I’ve had my fair share of blunt comments, insistent questions, and just overall awkward conversations. Let’s talk about ways we can go into this season with effective communication skills and healthy boundaries.

A Lack of Boundaries

“Hi sweetie! Wow! You look like you’ve put on some weight!”

“Oh! You’re single? Let me set you up with my dentist’s niece!”

“So…When am I going to be a grandparent?”

I can’t be the only one who has run into conversations with different family members about topics that were way too personal. These are conversational topics I would rather not talk about during a family get together. I’ve found myself left dumbfounded by the “loose cannon” of blunt commentary and questions that flow out so naturally for some. When those conversations come, a sense of comfortability in sharing may be wavered. Certain subjects may actually be unknowingly triggering or sensitive. Sometimes, a person may still be in the process of working something out and may not be ready to share about it yet. When someone is insistent in hearing where you are in life or when you’re getting married, an awkward situation can arise. This is where personal boundaries may become helpful. Ask yourself, “What is the expectation in this setting when it comes to sharing aspects of my personal life?”

Boundaries: Why do you need them?

By the time the holiday season has come, you’ve lived a whole year of your daily efforts along with a variety of experiences and emotions. If you’re looking forward to some time off and some rest, it may be worth it to protect your energy. Sometimes all it takes is just one conversation to affect the rest of your time with your family or friends. Having personal boundaries can still encourage connection, enjoyment, and relaxation without the tension of unwanted comments or information that may not be as helpful in your current process and life.

Being aware of your personal boundaries can help fight against those unwanted scenarios. In consideration of this, it’s helpful to have responses ready that honor your personal boundaries and effectively communicate to the other person that now isn’t the time to discuss that topic. Here are some phrases for your instant recall that set some intention for your own benefit and/or the benefit of someone else.

Possible Effective Responses

  • At this moment, I’m not comfortable sharing about that.
  • Right now doesn’t feel like a good time to discuss that.
  • I know you’re well intentioned, but I prefer that we not bring up that subject.
  • Because you’re important to me – I’d rather come back to this conversation at a later time.
  • Oh, I know where we land on that topic is really different, and I’d rather spend this time on similarities we hold.

With all of the different types of groups joining together in this season, there are many other possible responses to effectively communicate your personal boundaries. With that in mind, the expression of these responses look different for each person.

At times, it can be beneficial to reflect on how communication has taken place in your family and friend groups. If you feel like you would like to reflect and identify your personal boundaries with someone, please reach out to myself or one of the therapists here at Optimum Joy today!

Written by therapist Melissa Del Carmen

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