The ‘Silly Season’ pressure seems to begin at about the same time that Christmas advertising starts
The closer we get to Christmas the more our nerves become frayed, and tempers shorten. Many of us will feel increasing pressure with extra tasks to do, gifts to buy and money to find.
Why is it called the Silly Season?
I think it’s because the stress makes us do and say things we wouldn’t do or say at other times of the year — things may reflect on our relationships. So, this year I want to interrupt the advertising messages with a message of my own.
Christmas can be a stressful time
Sometimes those closest to us end up suffering because of our stress. So, here are some quick tips to make sure your nearest and dearest are still near and dear come New Year (ooh, that rhymes). And that your kids’ or partners’ new year resolutions do not include leaving home — unless of course, you want them to — then do the opposite of the suggestions below!
Tip #1 — Listen to understand
Yes, I know listening is a simple word and should be a simple process. But do you ever engage in any of these ‘alternative listening styles’?
Mind reading*: Pretending to know what the other person is thinking. Mind reading involves partially listening until you hear some words — or —with some experience, just one word — that you’ve heard before. You then you ‘mind read’ the rest of the message. As a spectator sport, this can be especially absorbing if both people in the conversation are mind reading at the same time. Count the seconds until the sparks start flying!
Person 1: “I’m really concerned about our finances.”
Person 2: “You’re just saying that because you don’t want to spend any money on my Christmas present. See, I know how you think. It’s all about you isn’t it!”
(*Mind reading is a technical term. And unless you’ve been trained explicitly in mind reading it’s best to avoid it.)
Reading between the lines
Reading between the lines involves listening to the words but scanning for the ‘real and hidden’ meaning. Again, this is a skill best left to professionals. Listening to the actual words used should require no interpretation, provided you’re both speaking the same language. And of course, you might not be speaking the same language, especially if you’ve previously engaged in mind reading.
Person 1: I’ve been wondering what to get David for Christmas. Any ideas?
Person 2: David? Is he the only one you’re concerned about!? What about Arthur and Martha? Have you any idea what you’re going to get them?
You carefully pick only the bits of the conversation that apply to you and ignore everything else. It’s important to deny knowledge of anything you didn’t hear.
This is a bit like a non-physical martial art. It usually also involves mind reading and or/reading between the lines. To be successful, you have to believe that any communication from the other person is a personal attack on you for something you have or haven’t done. Then respond as if battle lines have been drawn!
Flaw finding could be considered the opposite of reading between the lines. You listen to every detail of the conversation and try to find even minor untruths which you then challenge mercilessly and exploit.
Person 1: Jim asked us to go over to his place over the Christmas break for lunch.
Person 2: Jim! Don’t you mean Jim and Dora? It isn’t just Jim’s house, now is it? When are we supposed to be going? What do we have to take? Are you sure it’s lunch?
You might wonder why I’ve even included this under listening. It’s because some people find it impossible to listen. They want to be involved in the other persons thought, to put in their 2 cents worth and provide advice because, deep down, they believe the speaker doesn’t have the skill and initiative to figure things out for themselves. Patronising eh?
The Ethereal Listening Pose
I call it a pose because you’re there in body only! You make listening noises like, “aha, Hmm, right, O.K. etc” but anyone with their eyes open can see you’ve gone into a light trance state and you’re thinking about something totally unrelated such as, “I wonder what time the pub closes?” or, “I’ve still got another seven presents to get. What on earth will I get for Sophie?”
Part of you is listening and making supportive comments, and another part is making personal judgments about the speaker.
Out loud you’re saying: “That’s terrible, you must be incredibly upset and frustrated.” While, inside, another part of you is saying, “I can’t believe you’re telling me this AGAIN. Didn’t you learn your lesson last time? What are you — stupid?”
You don’t want to be any of those kinds of listeners
When you listen to understand, you’re hearing from your heart and with love. There’s no judgement, no defensiveness, only open-hearted acceptance of what the other person is saying. And yes, sometimes it is easier said than done.
Onto tip #2 — Lighten up!
Remember Christmas is the season of goodwill to all men (and presumably women) so relax and chill out a little. Ask yourself, “Will this matter a week from now /after Christmas?” If the answer is no, why bother making an issue of it now?
Tip # 3 — Remember the love
Sometimes, during the stressful parts of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget the reason for the season. Remember, your partner is the one you’ve chosen to spend your life with because you love him/her.
Think back to the time you made that commitment, check in with your heart and look at him/her again through the eyes of love. Notice how everything softens and how clear you can be about what’s important. And when the children are climbing the walls on a chocolate-induced high, and all you want is some Christmas Peace, remember to remind yourself of how much you love them when they’re asleep!
Above all, enjoy the spirit of Christmas (but only drive if you’re sober!)
Don’t let advertising or seasonal pressure get to you. Turn off the TV and prepare yourself by putting these tips to use starting now.
Tip #1 — Listen to understand.
Tip #2 — Lighten up!
Tip # 3 — Remember the love.