How to get a merrier Christmas, with silent communication
Christmas is about joy and spending quality time with people we love. Good food, nice company and a cosy theme framing it in. If it all goes as planned. But.
Being yourself might be a bit annoying
Getting together over Christmas can induce quite a pressure within and between people. Christmas quarrels aren't just a theoretical thought and for several reasons there can be tensions and minor and major outbursts. Some people simply doesn't go together very well, but are expected to do so during these festivities. And for the festivities to even occur resources need to be pulled together - a lot of cooking, arranging and socializing is to be carried out. Everyone have to make an effort. But the effort can differ quite a lot, can't it? You may have (or be) an overachieving mother in the kitchen, trying to fix it all. Or having/being a freeriding niece/nephew, just sitting off the time while fidgeting on a smartphone and waiting to be served. Overachieving and freeriding also build up tensions around.
Luckily these tendencies doesn't run in all families and not every year. But you've probably noticed the phenonema a couple of times, maybe wondering how the next Christmas will be. Even been tempted to skip the grand gettogether and buy a ticket to elsewhere? A lot of friction during Christmas celebration may be handled thou, assuming that most people want to put in as long as they know how.
This article will show how to get around some sharp corners in the case of socializing during Christmas celebrations. For this special occasion it covers a wider area than non verbal communication: People may need to talk a little. Let's start with some nonverbal cues to pay attention to, how they can be understood and later how they may be handled. Here I've grouped the cues into a couple simple messages silently expressed:
"Not hearing this"
In a conversation you may see someone start to pick invisible dust from their sleeves, swiping the table from invisible dust or touching their ears. These are non verbal cues of dislike, and usually shown when the person feel uncomfortable talking about the subject at hand. The dust-administration is easy to spot but the ear-touching can easily be mistaken for actual interest: While touching or somehow covering the ears usually signals "I do not want to hear more of this", pointing at an ear (usually when leaning the head against one hand, letting one finger point upwards) or turning the head so one ear is pointed towards you may signal interest. How to handle it: Change subject or (if you think you can handle the truth) ask for this persons view of the subject at hand.
"Not saying it. But thinking it."
The mouth says a lot here, without words. A "forbidden" thought is held back by physically more or less covering the mouth (often with an index finger pointing up towards the nose) or squeezing upper and lower lips together. Like the solutions mentioned above you can can change subject or ask of this persons view. But, he/she may be holding back a thought by consideration of the feelings of others -it may be better to hear him/her out later between just the two of you, or not at all.
"I don't want to see this"
This person has an urge to shut out what's in front of him/her, by either starting to blinking more than usual and/or holding his/her eyes closed unnaturally long while blinking. Looking away is another cue, but can also indicate other feelings/thoughts. How to: It may be difficult to see here if it is the person/persons in front or the subject at hand that is bothering. You could try to change to a subject you know this person is keen of. If that doesn't help you should try back of a bit, maybe inviting someone else (who is liked by the "no see"-person) into the conversation (bringing in positive vibes for all of you and gaining some goodwill for yourself at the same time).
"Nope, never, nada"
Crossed arms and/or crossed legs and maybe leaning backwards is body language for defensive attitude (unless the person is cold or something). This stand may become quite static, along with the attitude - it may require some effort from others to break it up. A long but serious way to break up this all-through negative attitude is to charm this person - directing some extra love and tender in his/her way. A short brute but sometimes effective way is to physically force up the static pose, in a cheerful way, by getting him/her into action. Ask him/her to help out (because no one else is really fit for this difficult task), forcing him/her to use arms and legs. Best would be to combine this solution followed by the first, to keep this person from returning into defensive stand.
"I'm not here"
A person in this mode does not intend to participate (but may not be aware of that him-/herself). Most obvious cue is not being around - staying as far away from the Christmas action as possible, maybe in another room or occupying an armchair in the furthest corner. This person will be fiddling with his/her cellphone, reading magazines or by other means keep busy with anything else than interacting with others in place. In a conversation you will probably see him/her having both hands in the pockets, answering but not asking questions and glancing away. Getting this person into game may be the hardest challenge as he/she doesn't invest any energy at all (even the defensive person is making an effort, thou a defensive one). Opposite the modes above this person may not feel any tension behind the facade and may feel comfortable doing nothing. Trying to activate him/her may push him-/herself further away. On the other hand, you won't loose much by going head on. With this person you may need to, in contrast to the other modes, build up some tension. The tension becomes a drive within the person, a drive to make a change. If you want that change to be a positive one you need to add some options for him/her to choose between (along with some TLC). You can gently: "Hey NNNNNN, how about joining the forces and help out in the kitchen or something?" If no reaction you can make the message more clear: "because I don't see much of your contribution here. Is something wrong?" He/she may need a minute or two to go from vegetate state through feeling offended to give your message another thought. If you stay to wait for an answer you build up too much pressure - look for cues described above. Consider to leave for a few minutes and follow up later. It may end in a bail-out, but more probably in turn-around to the better.
The flock behavior
A bit off topic but worth a reminder: Humans have the built in need to belong and instinct to get together. Finding and removing/channeling/temporary suppressing whatever disturbs this will usually be enough - the person will do the rest by him-/herself. That said, don't try to do everything yourself during the festivities, including managing all interpersonal matters. Unlocking a positive feeling within others will go a long way, it's one of those Christmas presents that goes both ways.
Merry Christmas and a Happy new year!
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