Surviving family drama this holiday season.</p>
<p>Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

It's that time again. As we hop in the car for Thanksgiving with the extended family or book that flight to visit in-laws over winter break, the wave of anxiety and dread can wash over us like a cranberry sauce tsunami. Not all family interactions go off without a hitch. So, let's take a look at what the rules of improv can teach us about avoiding family drama this holiday season.

Know your Triggers

Before you ever set eyes on an in-law, I'm gonna need you to get in the right headspace for success. That means knowing what usually sets you off.

If you are normally defensive or sensitive or ready for a fight, sit down and do some soul searching. Why do you normally get wrapped up in family drama?

Knowing your triggers can prime you to be more cautious when those tough moments arise with your family. And let's not be overly optimistic, there will most likely be a tough time or two this holiday season.

Prepare Yourself

You also need to get into the right mental space to mix and mingle with those argumentative uncles and judgmental cousins.

Take some time to think about what you love about your family before you the holidays. Try to prepare yourself for some of their more difficult behaviors, but don't forget why you love them in the first place. Approaching your family with a sense of cautious gratitude can help you be both prepared to avoid family drama and open to any pleasantly surprising positive behaviors on display this holiday season.

Alright, now that you've take stock of your triggers and are in a better headspace to avoid family drama in the first place, let's look at some hypothetical family drama and what improv can teach us avoiding it.

Your Racist Uncle

Scenario one goes like this: you're all gathered round the Thanksgiving table. Then, seemingly out of no where, your uncle refers to an entire race or creed of people in a stereotypical, offensive, and downright terrible way.

What's a gal to do?

Well, improv has a rule about trying to make your partner look good. Like, if they look good then the whole team looks good. So, before you go embarrassing or shaming your uncle or getting into an all out slug fest with him, take a breath.

Assuming your uncle is a jerk may seem like second nature, but it's most likely going to end in conflict. There are better ways to try to educate your uncle.

You could talk to him in private later. I know it feels like you need to point out the error of his ways as soon as you hear the offensive slur, but your uncle isn't likely to change his mind if you turn the incident into a public trial.

Let someone else get in that fight. You can take the high road and try to peacefully educate him later.

Your Judgmental Mother

The next scenario is discouragingly common. Your mom makes a passive aggressive comment about your weight or your clothes or the fact that you haven't had kids yet or aren't a good cook or that you're house is a mess. No one can get under our skin like our mothers, but I warn you: it's a trap.

Improv also teaches us to agree with other people's realities in order to avoid conflict.

When mom rolls up her sleeves and makes you feel about as small as a fingerling potato, it's not time to get defensive and argumentative. Instead, don't let it be about you.

If mom says, "I love how you don't waste time cleaning your house like I do," go along with her reality. Yes, mom. Your house is real clean. Bye, girl, bye.

If she says, "You look so much better now that you've put on all that weight," don't wring her neck. It's not worth it! Thanks, mom. I also think I look better. Bye, girl, bye.

If all else fails just ask yourself "What wold Lizzo do?"

Spoiler alert: Lizzo would not think twice about a sideways comment about the ways she looks because she is 100% that bitch!

Now, of course you need to have healthy boundaries and protect and enforce those boundaries, but if your mom is incapable of keeping her snide comments to herself, don't expect her to change this holiday season. Avoid family drama by taking the path of least resistance. "Yep, mom, whatever you say."

Your Know-it-all Brother

Your brother a king of mansplaining? Are you all having drinks around the fire when he starts explaining the inner workings of your literal area of expertise? This could be infuriating...or you could come prepared.

Once again, you have a choice to make. You could get in a fight with him about how condescending and self-righteous he is. You could storm out or lock yourself in the bathroom.

Or you could just nod your head and smile. Your brother thinks he knows everything about everything. Good on him.

Keep it silent and keep it moving.

Not worth it!

And there's no rule against changing the scenery. "I gotta go bro. The pie is calling my name."

Grandma with a Grudge

Now, let's talk about your grandma who is definitely going to remind you about that one time you were late to her soiree ten years ago.

You could get defensive and explain yourself. But this is probably going to escalate things.

Improv tells us to not let our mistakes stop the scene or define us. So, if your grandma thinks you made a mistake, there is no need for you to let it unravel you. Everyone makes mistakes, so your grandma bringing one up is really not a big deal.

I was late? To your party? Ten years ago? That's so me, grandma.

Even if your granny is 100% wrong, it doesn't really matter. There's no way you are going to convince her you were on time. She has been telling herself you were late for an entire decade. So, go along with her reality. Turn it into a self-deprecating joke, and then excuse yourself to go get another piece of pie.

The Family Friend who Thinks he's a Political Pundit...and Drank too Much Egg Nog

This one is tough. Not everyone knows that you should avoid talking about politics to avoid family drama...or perhaps not everyone cares.

Let's say your dad's friend...or even your dad himself...goes on a rant about, oh I don't know, a certain impeachment hearing or the election or really anything pertaining to politics. Let's also say he's drunk as a skunk.

Please, oh please, don't take the bait. This person desperately want to get in a fight with someone. Don't give them the satisfaction.

In improv, we avoid he said/she said scenes. They're not very fun to watch. And believe me, they're not very much fun in real life.

I probably wouldn't respond at all, but if I did, I might just say "uh huh" or "I bet" or "how neat."

This drunk pundit is looking for a battle, so any sign of conflict is going to turn immediately into that battle.

Don't do it. You wanna talk about politics? Totally cool. Imma go get more pie.

Final Thoughts on Avoiding Family Drama

Now, I'm not saying you should be totally spineless and avoid any and all conflict this holiday season, but you should be conscientious and aware of whether or not said conflict is worth it.

Only you know the inner workings of your family's chaos. So, make sure you avoid the pointless battles and bickering. If you know that your racist uncle has been this way for 80 years and that no amount of correcting and educating has any effect on him, then that's probably a battle worth skipping.

Go into your holiday season ready for your family drama. It's family, so drama is probably going to happen. But you don't have to engage in it.

Quick Tips and Tricks to Avoid Family Drama

  • Know your triggers.
  • Try to stay calm and collected.
  • Try not to be so defensive and sensitive.
  • Try to really listen to others, instead of filtering everything through the decades of missteps everyone has made.
  • If you need a break, take a break. Change your scenery.
  • Be ready with some "uh huhs" and "how interestings" instead of trying to prove how smart and great you are. It's your family we're talking about. They already know you. You have nothing to prove.
  • Lay off the booze. Nothing accelerates family drama like booze, and you're going to need a clear head to be able to maneuver around those racist uncles, judgmental moms, know-it-all brothers, grudge-holding grandmas, and drunk political pundits.
  • Try to stay positive and grateful. This is your family, and you're there for a reason. Try to see the silver lining.
  • Whatever you do, don't take the bait.

And if all else fails, lock yourself in the bathroom with a couple pieces of pie. It will all be over soon.

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What's your trick for avoiding family drama? Drop a comment below.