Well we are on the home straight towards Christmas and it is a time of year when the focus is on relationships. I’m sure many of you have been involved in the family debates of which house do you have to visit and when or who to invite. Or which clients do you send Christmas Cards to. It got me thinking when I was delivering a workshop on Change Management recently and the topic was Relationships. The interesting fact is it doesn’t matter if I’m working with organisations helping them to build productive relationships with their stakeholders or parents improving their communications with their teenagers, the relationship principles are very similar. You don’t have to be a teenager to act like one and relationships whether they are at home or work all thrive or dissolve on similar principles. So here are a few top tips to get you through the festive season with those tricky family relationships and remember the more you practice on your family the easier business relationships can become, just don’t tell them I said that. Now consider your family relationships that may cause you a degree of stress:

What beliefs do you hold about the family member, Are they true or assumed?

As a visualisation specialist I can easily make someone believe they have a hot coin in their hand when they don’t, it even makes their hand go red. The mind plays tricks on our beliefs so take time to evaluate your thoughts about that family member. Are they based on facts or your interpretation of the facts? What would someone else say if you gave them all the information about that relative and asked them to give you honest feedback. Recognise how you feel about a particular situation: if you don’t want to go to a relative’s house and you go, you’ll have it written all over your face whether you want to or not. They will pick up the secret messages without you saying a word.

·      So as an alternative suggest meeting in a neutral place and you won’t feel trapped by the other person’s surroundings.

·      Put yourself in their shoes You cannot truly understand a person until you look at life through their eyes.

·      We are only a few of generations from the Victorian era with Victorian values, these values still dictate how the older generation perceive the world and have a direct bearing on how they think.

·  If the topic of conversation gets awkward then distract them onto an alternative subject. If you are subtle with it they won’t even notice. I once had a challenge from a friend to see if I could get the conversation onto Pigeon Racing without anyone noticing the shift. It took a few minutes and a lot of self-control not to laugh as we discussed the merits of the Copper Tipplers. Pre-plan your distraction method it will help and it is so easy to do.

Remember no matter how much you persist, you cannot change your family or their behaviour, only they can do that for themselves. You can only change your perception of the person and how you feel. No-one can make you feel sad, you do that all by yourself because you choose to react in that way. You have about 25 seconds when something is said or done that you dislike to either accept it and wallow like a sponge at the thought of it, or you can bring down the protective boundary that stops it getting through. So remember you have complete control you just need to be in charge of it.

Finally my last tip;

The best way for your family to enjoy your company is to get them talking about themselves. And never tell them what they are thinking but describe back to them what they are feeling e.g. “that must have been really challenging for you” or “I’m sure that taught you a great deal”. Before you know it they’ll be off again and you will be the best person in the world.

So practise on the family over Christmas and you’ll be improving your skills three fold in the New Year with your clients. Self-awareness is at the heart of getting to know yourself and others more.

For more information on step-parenting relationships read my book, click here