Entrepreneurs’ Guide to a Stress-Free Holiday Dinner

December 24, 2014

9:00 am

Holiday family gatherings can be times of joyous moments with your loved ones, or times of frustration. You are already a bit on the edge because you’ve had a tough year of the emotional ups and downs of running a business. And then there are questions of how you’re managing your company and money, followed by the unsolicited advice of how to run your professional life. Sound familiar?

Holidays can be emotionally stressful because they are filled with associations of what it felt like growing up—the good and the bad. Holidays also interrupt our everyday routines, and we can find ourselves back to a place of unresolved emotional issues. But believe me, a simple shift in thinking can make holiday meals with the family smoother.

WSJ Family Fight During Dinner

1. Manage Your Expectations

Anxiety and stress usually starts when you come to your family with inflated expectations of what your family should be like: At least, in comparison to investor meetings, it should be a happy gathering around the perfect dinner table. Unrealistically high expectations coupled with a tendency to take intense personal responsibility for failure make a lethal combination, according to Dr. Barry Schwartz, author of the best seller The Paradox of Choice, and co-author Dr. Andrew Ward, professor of psychology at Swarthmore College.

2. Accept That It Won’t Be Perfect 

Learning to accept “good enough” will simplify decision-making and increase satisfaction. Instead, Schwartz and Ward suggest that you accept the reality of the situation and don’t compare it to an idealized version of reality. The kids may get loud, your partner may have an argument with your in-laws and your cousin’s drinking facilitates the voicing of his appalling political views. These are all realities, and once you accept them, you will be happier. This is not to be confused with setting your expectations low; research indicates that setting expectations too low can lead to dissatisfaction and depression as well.

3. Stop Social Comparison

No one’s lives or family is perfect, even if they like to project these false impressions. Social comparison reduces our satisfaction. So before you get angry at your father-in-law for not understanding your decisions to make some changes to your lifestyle for the sake of your business, go outside and take a deep breath.

4. Heavy Conversations Can Wait Until After Dinner

Family meetings should not be held over the holiday table (after everyone has had a few drinks), but at another convenient time. “That may mean in the living room the next afternoon, over dinner at a fun restaurant, or at a ski lodge,” says Morristown, N.J.-based adviser Stewart Massey.

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Camila has been heavily active in South Florida’s tech startup community, where she is a co-host of a local radio show called pFunkcast. Camila previously worked at Greenpeace International and the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in various communication roles. A proud Brazilian who spent most of he life in Peru, she is passionate about traveling and documentaries.

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