Dreading the Holidays
Hi KALMers! Lebaran is near! It is time to pulang kampung and meet our extended family we haven’t seen in a while.
But are there some of you who dread the questions that you know your family members will ask you over and over again every year?
When are you getting married?
When are you having children?
Have you gained weight?
You’re not alone.
These questions can make us feel judged, vulnerable, and pitied. They can feel like invasions of privacy. They make us reluctant to be honest and maybe become bitter towards our family members. And all on a holiday that is meant to foster respect and harmony in our relationships!
KALMers, we want to give you tools not only to deal with these questions gracefully, but also to help you change the culture in these family situations.
Tool #1: Empathize
The first and most powerful tool for you to use, KALMers, is your empathy. If we look beyond how the question makes us feel and try to understand why that person is asking, we realize that the question is not about us at all.
It’s about them: what they’ve been through, what behaviors they’re repeating, what they think family is all about. Family gatherings really are an opportunity to get to know them.
Psychologist F. Diane Barth identifies some reasons why people ask us uncomfortable questions, on Psychology Today:
- That’s the only way they know how to connect. – We often repeat behaviours because it’s all we know how to do. So maybe for your family member, these questions are the only way they know how to connect with family, and so this is their default to break the ice and make small talk.
- They genuinely want to know and help. – Maybe they’ve heard from someone that you’re going through a tough time, and they want to help in some way, but because you’ve never had a conversation about it, they don’t want to assume!
- They want to make you uncomfortable. – Unfortunately there are some people who want to see you squirm. They think it’s in their power to do that, and that it will be amusing or make them feel good. It may come from jealousy, or some problem they’re going through that you are not aware of.
If we can identify why they are asking us these questions, we can react and respond better. That way, we can change the culture in our family gatherings, and define a new way of relating to and respecting each other.
Tool #2: 3Cs – Comedy, Clarity, Confidence
Let’s motivate ourselves to bring harmony and respect to our family culture, KALMers! Let’s not go back to our own instinctual response that is motivated by self-protection. When we deflect the question or become bete and angry, we miss out on a better direction.
Knowing that our family members have different reasons to ask us these questions, we can recognize that they are not necessarily looking for your answer. They may think so, but we don’t have to give that to them. Instead, they want other things:
- They want connection.
- They want to help.
- They want to feel powerful.
So, similarly, we can respect them by answering these needs:
- Comedy – Cracking jokes always help with feeling connected! “When I find a billionaire celebrity entrepreneur, i’ll invite you to our Japanese wedding like Syahrini ok?” Don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t take the question too personally, just make it a chance to break the ice in a different way.
- Clarity – For someone who wants to help, they don’t always know how to. You can give them clarity by actually explaining your situation, or by just admitting that you don’t like being asked that. Or you’d rather not think about it and have fun with family instead.
- Confidence – People look for power because they usually feel insecure our powerless in other areas of their life. So learn to take confidence in your situation. “I’m putting in a lot of time and effort into my work and yes, maybe I’ve gained some weight! That’s ok, I can lose it when I want to.” This will teach them to find security in themselves too.
KALMers, we hope with these tools you’ll no longer dread your family meetings. We wish you all a peaceful remaining few days of fasting, and a truly happy Idul Fitri!
By: Evannia Handoyo