Gathering. There are so many ways we do this all year long, with our friends, our extended family, and our partners. We gather for events big and small, but regardless of size, the best gatherings have one thing in common: everyone is on the same page about expectations.
As we begin preparing ourselves — logistically and emotionally — for the holiday season ahead, I’d like to share with you the importance of talking about your expectations for spending time together.
Whether or not you think you have expectations going into a gathering, you do. We all do, even if we’re not totally aware of them. When those expectations go unseen or unfulfilled, it can cause disappointment, resentment, and a lot of unnecessary emotional turmoil. (Earlier this year, I shared how this happened between me and Eric on Valentine’s Day; it was a major bummer to say the least!
Earlier this summer, we got together as a family with our kids and grandkids, and we did exactly this. We agreed that we weren’t going to talk about politics and religion, and we didn’t. Instead, we connected on the things we have in common. The children in our family really are a gift in that regard. Our grandkids brought so much fun and joy to our time together — they really do help us recalibrate and set the tone for our time together.
Take the time to explore your own expectations for what your time together will look like. Ask your loved ones about their expectations. What will make this gathering meaningful to you? Do those you’re meeting with feel the same? Discuss plans ahead of time, so you don’t run into the messy, frustrating experience of unspoken expectations that go unmet and invariably lead to heartache.
If you’re wondering how exactly to do this, try these six steps:
- Send this blog post in an email with a note that says, “Here’s something that I’d like to incorporate in our next gathering.”
- Share what you appreciate about the gatherings and the person you’re speaking with. Think of at least three good things to say.
- Share in a soft way why you’d like to have this conversation: “Last time we gathered, I left feeling a little disappointed, and I wished we could have had this conversation beforehand.”
- Ask for their impressions of the last gathering or what they wish, want, or need from future gatherings.
- Reflect and empathize with them.
- Make a plan, ask for what you need, and steer clear of the Four Horsemen: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
When you talk about expectations, not only do you avoid feeling deflated and discouraged after a gathering, you set the tone in advance, showing your loved ones that you care deeply. The message you send is clear: you want everyone involved to walk away with a positive experience, fond memories, and light hearts.
I’d encourage you to give this a shot before your next gathering, whether it’s a weekend getaway with your partner, a family vacation, or a holiday gathering of family and friends. It doesn’t require a ton of time, and the positive impact it can have on your relationships will amaze you.