Setting boundaries can be tough, especially at Christmas when you're surrounded by family or have to make difficult decisions about who you can see and how much time you can spend. No doubt this year, decisions are being made even more difficult by COVID restrictions and the last minute rule changes and travel bans. When it comes to setting boundaries, it can also be really difficult (particularly for people-pleasers) to express how you feel, without the fear of offending someone or coming across ungrateful.
An approach I find helpful is one developed by clinical psychologist Thomas Gordon. It centres your feelings and experiences, reduces the likelihood of defensiveness in the listener, and offers concrete suggestions for change.
Here's how it works...
Use the following words as an anchor for your statements, and build what you'd like to say around it:
I FEEL overwhelmed WHEN we talk about changing Christmas plans BECAUSE this is not the Christmas we had been working towards, and whatever we do I feel like someone else will be let down. I NEED to spend some peaceful time by myself to work things out, so please give me the space and time to do so.
I FEEL stressed WHEN hosting Christmas dinner BECAUSE there's always so much to do and everyone clears out when the tidying up needs to be done. I NEED everyone to help with clearing the table and doing the washing up, so that we can all enjoy a more relaxing evening together as a family.
What does your boundary setting look like? Try a sentence like the above - say it out loud. How does it sound? Try using this format to communicate how you feel with your friends and family, and respect your own boundaries this Christmas.