Have you ever excitedly told a relative about a new job, a fun event, a cool hobby, only to have them point out every bad part about it? Our family usually has our best interests at heart, but they may misunderstand what we need based on something so simple as how we present what we share.
Turns out, it’s pretty easy to avoid this kind of misunderstanding, and explain your life choices like a boss….
One key to avoiding unnecessary judgment from relatives is framing your statements in a positive way. The concept of framing refers to ensuring the phrasing and context of what you say aren’t subconsciously misinterpreted.
Framing is important because humans can’t help but react to the context in which a statement is embedded, rather than to just the statement itself. It’s like how we might see the glass half full or half empty based on what kind of day we’ve had.
So, when relatives ask about your life choices, make sure to choose your words and give the appropriate context – it may help to imagine what kind of advice you’d give a friend in the same situation. What could you emphasize in conversation to help your family understand you have made the right decisions for yourself?
Instead of this: Oh, I got fired.
Say this instead: My last job wasn’t a great fit for me. I’m taking the time to explore my options and rework my career on solid footing.
Instead of this: I’m dropping out of school because of my anxiety.
Say this instead: I realized I’m not making the most of my education, if I don’t take care of myself. So I’ve chosen to take some time now, to regroup and reassess. Education is very important to me, but it’s not smart for me to pursue it before knowing exactly what I want and need.
Instead of this: I’m not happy at work. I think I want to try freelancing but I’m not sure…
Say this instead: I’m really excited to try out something new – I’d like more control in my work, and I’m considering freelancing!
Aside from framing, your tone and self-confidence in explaining your life choices also impact the reaction you’ll get. If you speak in an insecure, open-ended manner, your relatives may feel that you need them to step in and “show you the way.” Unfortunately, we all know being confident is easier said than done.
Before you go into a situation where you’ll talk about yourself, think of a few qualities, accomplishments, or deeds you are genuinely proud of yourself for. Whether you end up sharing them or not, channel them throughout the night. This strategy takes advantage of priming, or the tendency of the brain to go back to recently-accessed information more quickly. It’ll be easier to remember that YOU are the expert on your own life, and that you’ve got good things going for you.
It feels great to make others happy, to please those you care about, to hear high praise from people you have immense respect for. Unfortunately, not every decision you make will be accompanied by great feelings from them!
It’s extremely difficult to go against the advice or opinion of the people you grew up with. From childhood, your caretaker’s opinion becomes a gold standard of sorts. But ultimately we have to remember that their views on the world are just that – theirs, and accordingly biased. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t respect the opinions of your relatives, but that you’re entitled to respect your own just as much. In the end, however you present yourself, it’s OK if they don’t agree.
There will be plenty of unsolicited perspectives and advice during the holidays, but it’s up to you to take it or leave it. Know that your relatives usually have good intentions when they advise you, but remember that their opinions aren’t gospel. Your opinion has just as much value as the next person’s. And if you just speak that truth through your tone and effectively framing what you say, you’re on the way to explaining your life choices like a boss.
Written by: Merusha Mukherjee