(SPOT.ph) Christmas reunions are a dreadful ritual for single and rubenesque Filipinos, who, for the life of them, have to contend with relatives who turn their relationship status and weight into icebreakers. Pending a generational shift, getting together with family is not as easy as eating a cup of fruit salad in peace.
Then there's politics, which adds an extra layer of stress. Maybe you can banter your way our of "tumaba ka" or "kailan ka mag-aasawa?" but how about that one tito or tita whose political beliefs are the polar opposites of yours? How does one navigate these awkward and uncomfortable conversations?
It's best to expect that there will be uncalled-for and sometimes even offensive comments during such events since it has been a part of the culture of Filipinos whether people like it or not, said life coach Hasmin Miroy.
"What's important is that you keep in mind that whatever comment your titas and titos make about your appearance or your life, it does not reflect your value as a person," Miroy told reportr.
Christmas reunions are part of Filipino culture
Knowing that the family reunion is only one event that you have to survive can also ease the stress that comes with anticipating it, she added.
"It will not define you or your life so don't put too much stress or pressure on yourself," Miroy said.
With political talk in the mix of family conversation topics this Christmas, it's best to stay level-headed and maintain respect in discourse according to Danilo Arao, who teaches journalism at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
"When you join a conversation, the purpose should be to talk and not to dismiss what the other person has to say," Arao told reportr.
How to survive awkward conversations during Christmas reunions
1. Be open-minded.
When aunties and uncles make comments or express their opinions on certain issues, try to understand where they're coming from before making a reaction, said Arao.
"Listen first with the goal of understanding so you can plan your response," Arao said. Not all comments also need to elicit a response such as off-the-cuff remarks, Arao said.
2. Consider the relationship.
It takes time to build a relationship and such a short while only to end it. Before you start a fight with that auntie or uncle who has offended you, consider how much you value the connection and what is the best way to discuss differences.
"You can and should be able to tell any person when their words hurt or offend you. But you don't have to do it in a rude manner, you can do it in a sober and respectful way," Miroy the life coach said.
Arao said there are times when "you can stay silent but you don't have to stay silent forever."
"It's a judgment call too. Use respectful language and set the tone for the conversation. Sometimes, when we get carried by our emotions, vile language and cuss words would follow suit," he said.
3. Choose your battles.
Family reunions are meant to gather people to have fun together and not to tear relatives apart. When tensions rise or you feel offended by a certain comment, think first before you speak, said Miroy.
"Be the bigger person. If you respond harshly, will it be worth it?" she said. If a comment or opinion really offends or hurts you in a way that you feel you have to respond, Miroy said to do so respectfully. She suggests a private conversation to discuss your feelings instead of publicly calling out the relative in front of other people.
4. Keep the respect.
When it comes to political differences, Arao said that it's understandable for people to have difficulty talking to relatives whose views oppose yours and those who share misleading information.
"You don't want to burn bridges as much as possible. If you disagree on a certain issue, you can express your side by giving personal examples or steering the conversation into something more relatable," Arao said.
The same goes for personal comments. Before keeping a grudge over an auntie or uncle's words, ask yourself also if the comments are true.
"Baka naman mamaya totoo naman talaga na tumaba ka. Although it's unnecessary to point it out, consider also that maybe they have your well-being in mind," life coach Miroy said.
5. Don't be elitist.
It's a fact that some family members have higher educational attainment than others and these circumstances should be considered in starting conversations such as on political and social issues, Arao said.
"You don't want to come off as entitled just because you studied in this school or are working as a certain profession. Everyone has opinions, what's non-negotiable are facts," he said.
At the end of the day, Christmas is a time for family, friends, and merry-making. Words and actions during the holiday season should reflect the Christmas spirit, said Miroy.
"Family reunions are meant to strengthen bonds not tear each other apart. That's the spirit of the season," she said.
Hasmin Miroy is one of the many professional life coaches in Life Coach Philippines. Check out this page for their services.
This article by Arianne Merez originally appeared in Reportr in November 2021.