Have you ever left a holiday gathering with family or friends feeling more depleted than when you arrived?
I sure have!
Does this feel familiar? You go to a gathering hoping for some time to connect, and instead it’s:
- Small talk galore.
- Uncomfortable avoidance of “tricky” topics — or tense interactions that feel stressful.
- Censoring yourself to make others comfortable.
- Your cousin eye-rolling when you make an attempt to be vulnerable.
- Probably some self-soothing with alcohol to either numb your discomfort or make things more “interesting.”
So instead of truly communicating with family or friends, everyone is just sort of talking at and past each other.
The result? You leave the party, and instead of feeling closer and connected, you feel exhausted, annoyed, and maybe even more distant than before.
You’re longing for real connection with the people you genuinely care about … but it’s like things aren’t set up to encourage that.
See, we’re not actually taught how to cultivate deep, meaningful connection at the dinner table (or anywhere else!).
When it comes to our communication skills, we’re often taught to avoid saying real things, because we’re afraid we’re going to offend, rock the boat, not fit in, seem weird, or come across as too touchy-feely.
So superficiality becomes synonymous with “polite.”
Staying small and safe becomes the goal, rather than being courageous, authentic, and truly loving.
When you’re staying small, you tend to default to talking about superficial topics, gossiping, or sharing surface-level updates.
And not only is it boring as hell — oh my god, SO boring — it also takes way more energy, because you’re spending so much energy performing rather than 1) being yourself, 2) allowing others to be themselves, and 3) forging real intimacy.
Real intimacy is NOT always easy— but it does create more energy + aliveness.
If you crave being seen and received by your friends and family, and you want to be let more intimately into their internal world, too — then you’ve gotta create the conditions for more connection!
As we often say here: When it comes to anything you desire — in this case, truly connecting and communicating with family and loved ones and creating more authentic intimacy — we’ve got good news and bad news.
The bad news is: it’s up to you. And the good news is: it’s up to you!
In other words: if you want something, you have to practice creating and giving it first. That means you’re the one to bring the intimacy to your relationships!
Is it vulnerable? Hell yes.
Could it not go your way? Possibly.
Is it still worth it? Abso-fucking-lutely!
Why? Because putting what you desire out into the world is the most surefire way to generate more of it in your life.
No, it doesn’t “work” 100% of the time, in the sense that sharing yourself genuinely isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get that in return. Real love isn’t transactional. It’s not a vending machine. And we don’t get to control others, no matter how amazing our communication skills are.
So, yes, sometimes you will offer intimacy to someone who is not ready or is not able at that time to give you what you desire.
And that’s okay. That’s all good information. Their lack of willingness or ability is not a reflection of you, your worthiness, your lovability. It’s just where they’re at.
But a lot of times, you’ll be surprised at how much people are just waiting to be invited into actual, meaningful, non-performative connection. You’ll put something out there (like one of our dinner table games below), and you’re realize that you’re not the only one who’s hungry for more of the good stuff.
The thing is, practicing healthy and real ways of communicating with family and friends isn’t good for you because you’re more likely to receive it back (although you are).
It’s good for you because practicing being your whole self in any and every situation in your life is how you create the life you want.
It’s empowering. It’s freeing. And it will generate tons of love you weren’t even anticipating, because you will start to see and love yourself and others differently the more you are your true self.
This is why communication skills are important and why it’s so rewarding to be the one who finally steps up and initiates the kind of connection you’re craving!
I’m going to share some fun games you can try at the dinner table this Holiday to spark better conversation. But first, here are:
- Try it without an agenda. It’s easy to go into things hoping for a certain outcome, and that hope can become an expectation. Then, when it doesn’t go exactly how we imagined it would, we feel disappointed. Instead, try surrendering your attachment to a particular outcome. Approach it lightly and with a sense of play. Give yourself permission to be okay with whatever happens.
- Nothing is personal. You might get someone at the table who is visibly resistant. Or someone who rolls their eyes or even makes fun of you a little. Instead of bristling and being offended, try softening your edges even more. Because the reality is, it’s not about you. They’re feeling uncomfortable for whatever reasons they have for feeling uncomfortable — bad experiences in the past, fear, unresolved issues — and those reasons likely have nothing to do with you. It’s not personal!
- Be willing to see someone in a whole new way. When it comes to communicating with family or friends, if you’ve got a loved one who is usually prickly or sarcastic or aloof, it’s easy to have a story about them: this is who they are, and so you’re always interacting with them based on the story you have about them.
Can you be open to the possibility that you could experience them in a different way? Make room for something new or unexpected? Real listening can do this! Let the love you have for them allow you to see a real, nuanced, surprising facet of them shine through.
Here are 5 simple games to spark connection and intimacy at your Xmas, Hanukkah or New Years dinner party— and see how it goes!
It might feel a little awkward at first, especially if your family isn’t used to connecting like this. But most likely everyone will be grateful you suggested something different, once you get started!
Make this year the one where you take the risk.
When you actually start noticing all the places you’re playing small and safe, you might start to realize where and why you’re not experiencing the intimacy you crave (in all areas of your life).
And yes, we talk about communication skills and why they’re important — but it’s about SO much more than that.
Being clear, honest, and loving when we’re communicating with family, friends, co-workers, lovers, clients, strangers … it’s really about learning how to show up as yourself, without entitlement, manipulation, or agenda.
The more you learn how to do this, the more you’ll find deeper satisfaction in every area of your life. So why not start with a Holiday get-together?
Save this blog and pull it up throughout the holidays as you’re connecting with the people in your life.
And report back how it goes, please! We love to hear how it’s going.
Leave a comment below if this was helpful / supportive for you, going into the holiday season! ❤️