It’s the most wonderful time of the year! And, sometimes, the most stressful. We love making memories with family, though time together can trigger a lot of emotions. So here are some bright and insightful tips from my dear friend and Get Louder podcast partner Cristina Young, LCSW.

Cristina’s wisdom creates a wave of calm for any encounter that elicits uncertainty. I know you will benefit from her words.

Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving!

1. Experiment with being the quieter one in some of the conversations.

This stance allows you the opportunity to observe others, process dialogue, and remain thoughtful. Quiet provides us with the time to choose the right words and to offer them in a calm response, rather than reacting impulsively when an unhappy relative shoots off at the mouth.

 2. Rehearse a bit.

We all have one relative we can probably designate as the most problematic for us. Whether they criticize us openly, assault us sarcastically, or judge us quietly from afar. Usually, one person earns the title of “the relative I’d rather not sit next to.”

When we are the recipient of another person’s unkind comments, we have two choices:  walk away or come back with a quick reply. So prepare a line “to keep in your back pocket” to let this difficult person know you’re not interested in receiving his or her unsolicited comments this year. Rehearse it aloud with your spouse or in the mirror. The more times we practice something, the stronger the path we create in our brain to retrieve something again when we need it on a moment’s notice.

Remember, hurt people are the ones who hurt people, so their mean outbursts say everything about them and nothing about you.

3. Select one person with whom you’d like to deepen your connection.

Obviously, this relative is the opposite of the one mentioned in #2 above. Ask yourself which relative you admire the most from afar. Then find them, and be curious. Ask questions about their upbringing, their family, their job, mistakes they’ve made and learned from, or their favorite books or movies.

Set a goal to leave having furthered your connection to this one person. Research tells us that the greatest predictor of overall happiness and longevity are the quality and quantity of authentic connections in our lives.

4. Model gratitude and altruism.

Take a risk amongst the group if a gratitude practice is not already established. Ask each person at the dinner table to name one thing or person for whom they are grateful. Or ask each person to name a person who is suffering greater than themselves and to whom they’d like to offer a prayer or a thought.