Keep the Peace: 20 Phrases to Help You Hold Boundaries at Holiday Functions
We've all been there. You're gathered with the whole family crew and Aunt Sally asks a questions that she knows will stir up some drama. Or you're at the work holiday party and an especially loud coworker decides he has a good audience to voice his unwelcome political opinions. Or you can tell your child or significant other has been made to feel uncomfortable.... yet you aren't really sure what to say. You don't want to create further friction but know boundaries need to be set. Here are 20 phrases to bring with you through the holidays to help you keep the peace!
The more you can keep your own calm when navigating tricky situations, the more you can be a force of peacefulness. Make sure not to rise to the level of intensity around you. Remember that you have the power to respectfully redirect energy and keep the peace this holiday season.
1) I'd appreciate it if you didn't discuss...
Sometimes a simple but firm reminder that a topic is not up for discussion is enough to stop cousin Fred from thinking your weight, or your child's insecurity is something to bond over chatting about.
2) That's your opinion.
It's okay to remind others that the belief they are trying to force upon anyone who will listen is an opinion, not fact... even if they believe it firmly.
3) Let's stick to more uplifting topics shall we? Did you hear the good news about...
It can be easy to fall into a habit of bonding over the latest gossip and misfortune of others. Or perhaps Grandpa John is rattling off the disturbing news headlines that aren't exactly jolly. Redirect the conversation toward you niece making the choir, your cousin who got a promotion at work or the neighbor family welcoming a healthy baby boy!
4) I can see why you'd feel that way.
Sometimes when people bring up a particular topic or share a divisive opinion, they are simply looking to feel heard. By honoring their feelings and leaving it at that rather than argue, it diffuses a potential moment of tension before it even occurs.
5) This seems like something we could work on/ through together.
There are times we can be the unintentional instigators. If someone ready to cast blame brings up something that bothers them, acknowledge their feelings gently. Validate their experience and acknowledge your willingness to make amends while holding them accountable for their portion.
6) It's okay for us to have differing ideas.
Not everyone will agree on how to fix the economy, parent their children, or even which dessert is the best for Christmas dinner.
7) Please (insert boundary)
Not every uncomfortable moment is created out of bad intentions. Sometimes a respectful request do to or not do something is all the communication needed to affirm positive boundaries. Examples: Please speak kindly about my coworker, she's doing the best she can. Please respect my child's body, he doesn't wish to hug you right now.
8) My schedule doesn't allow for that right now.
Maybe someone the work party was the perfect time to try and casually pass along a responsibility to you, or your uncle recruited you to participate in something you do not have an interest being involved in. If you phrase your response in terms of your schedule rather than your own disinterest, it may prevent hurt feelings and make it easier to give a clear response.
9) This is not up for discussion or debate.
There are some topics that just aren't going to end positively. Draw the line before things escalate.
10) What are you aiming to accomplish in saying that?
Asking for clarification in this way can prevent someone who is trying to create tension from continuing, as they might assess what is motivating them. Or it may allow someone who means well to further explain in a way that creates further clarification.
11) What I hear you saying is...
Speaking of clarification, another way to ensure someone is understood is to paraphrase and repeat back to them what they said. This can either help a loved one feel heard... or make someones racist/sexist/homophobic comments bold and clear. Ex: "What I hear you saying is you don't believe women deserve an equal opportunity as you in the workplace?"
12) It makes sense that we'd view this issue differently.
Even those within a tight-knit family or friend group can have drastically different life experiences. Our life experiences shape our world views. It is okay to honor that two individuals or groups may have different opinions because of the life experiences they've gone through.
13) If .... continues, I'll need to leave.
Drawing a personal boundary in order to protect your energetic wellness is a practice many of us did not grow up learning. This is a simple way to do so and help others understand your seriousness.
14) Let's come back to this topic at a calmer time.
If a topic arises that does need to be discussed but now isn't the time to do so, ensure the other person that you hear them and will circle back. Plan a time to come back around to it so they do not feel dismissed.
15) I'd rather discuss this with you privately, thank you.
Even well-meaning family and friends may bring up something they thought was okay to talk about but you aren't comfortable discussing around the whole group. So if your work friend decides to ask you about your fertility journey in the middle of your corporate party, draw the line calmly and let her know you'll catch up about it later on the phone.
16) That was inappropriate.
Sometimes there are comments made that need to be called for what they are. This is a simple and concise way to do so.
17) I don't feel comfortable talking about that.
It's okay to share a boundary of what you do not feel comfortable discussing. Maybe a group of cousins want to talk about another cousin in a way that is disrespectful. Or a coworker thinks talking about their sex life is fair game after a couple of glasses of wine.
18) Thank you for understanding...
Expressing appreciation before sharing your feelings or request can helpful. Who doesn't like feeling gratitude expressed. So the next time you need to share something that someone may feel hesitant about, thank them first.
As a recovering people-pleaser, this one word has been the most powerful word to grow ownership of. Your "no" needs no explanation... no "No, because" or "No, but..". It's okay to give a firm one word answer.
20) ..... (silence)
Just as powerful as your "No" is your silence. Silence can speak louder than words and it can often be more effective to leave an inappropriate conversation, argument, or unkind discussion to protect your peace.
Please remember that if you're a parent, you're also responsible for protecting the peace of your children as well. Use these phrases on their behalf and show them what healthy boundary setting looks like.
Are there any phrases you'd add to the list? Any scenarios where you've found one of these to be helpful? Let's hear them!