Wise advice on how to avoid stress with your relatives this holiday season


Pamela Slim over at Escape from Cubicle Nation has shared some advice that I thought worth reprinting here. She’s written an article called Traps to avoid when discussing your career with relatives over the holidays. I think it’s a very timely reminder of the oh-so-fun things that can come up whenever families get together — ever seen a competitive Asian family get-together? It’s not pretty — and how to deal with it all.

Here are a few highlights I particularly enjoyed:

    Trap: Thinking your relatives understand that you have changed since your failed lemonade business in fifth grade. Try as we might, it is so hard to break the stereotypes that our relatives have about us based on what they saw when we were growing up. “You could never stick to one thing, Martha, you were always distracted in your studies”, etc. Even if they don’t come right out and say it, you can often feel their disapproval based on their body language or tone of voice.

    Solution: Change your expectations. You will never be able to convince your family you have outgrown your innate shyness, so stop trying. Show results by your actions. If you get too frustrated in a conversation, smile and change the subject quickly. The worst thing you can do is argue your point. You will never win, and will most likely revert to acting like a 10 year old.

    Trap: Thinking they understand the changing job market. Older relatives may be perplexed by the fact that the average person now has seven careers in their lifetime. They grew up in a world where the best career security was finding a good job in a good company and staying until retirement. Lots of job changes was seen as being irresponsible, unstable and less desirable for employment.

    Solution: Come armed with a nice “elevator speech” about today’s job market so that you can help them see that you are not outside of the norm. “25% of women in their mid-40s are successfully starting businesses, Uncle Milt,” or recite the “7 career per lifetime” statistic above. If they still don’t get it, let it go and change the subject.

Pam’s listed some other good tips, like cutting down on the jargon and limiting yourself to a few minutes’ time when discussing your work instead of risking boring others around you, plus advice on how to keep calm when things get exasperating. I received the list because I subscribe to her email newsletter, which you can do through this link if you’re interested. It’s good stuff!


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