Yontif is coming, the "Season of our Liberation"! Rejoice, for we have been redeemed!
And yet, one can feel suffocatingly confined when a multitude of guests pile into a restricted space. Toes get stepped on, proverbially and literally. Lines are crossed. Words are said. By motzei yontif, the squatters vacate in a hurry, and the hosts happily shoo them out.
In order for an entire household to be at peace, it requires a conscious choice by each individual to tuck in elbows, fake smile, and swallow any resentment.
"Crisis Negotiators Give Thanksgiving Tips" by Henry Alford addresses potential family drama regarding the gobble-gobble holiday. The people who spend their day coaxing guns away from hostage-takers are apparently chock full of valuable skills in this department:
1. Active listening. We all want to be heard. Let others speak, and by repeating what they said, and also using emotional labeling ("Sounds like you were hurt/saddened/angered/irritated by that"), shows that their words were processed and understood.
2. Don't bargain, appreciate. Story: My niece is the worried, bossy-boots type, and when her cousin complained about her managerial style, she dissolved into "this is unjust!" hysterics. I took her aside and told her that everyone appreciates how much she helps out with the younger children, and no one is forgetting that. Additionally, I had told the cousin to cut her some slack, and could she should cut her some in return? She wiped away the tears and bounced away.
3. "Into the Crevasse" (30 Rock reference). Often, in order to transcend, we first have to crawl downward. This can mean apologizing even when guiltless. Then, the other side melts into malleable putty. And guess who was the bigger person? You were! Now, doesn't that feel good?
4. Don't escalate. There will always be some sort of clash of beliefs or perspective. Instead of demanding that the other side agree, gently present a personal opinion, but don't demand acceptance.
5. It's not lying, it's minimizing. Matters are usually not as dire as they can initially appear. By parsing it into smaller pieces, hey, it's not so bad.
6. Bring in the loved backup. There are those who just don't want to look at you, but they are close to someone else. They don't necessarily have to intercede on your behalf—rather, they can distract from any drama by being a cheerful and merry buffer.
Let's all shut up and eat some matzah!