If you are like many people, you love many things about Thanksgiving: being surrounded by family and friends, eating great vittles, and spending a day being thankful for the good things in your life.
You don’t love the idea of spending the day with your brother-in-law Dave. What in the world does your sister see in that arrogant-shallow-inescapable-must-be-compensating-for-something man?
If you’re not careful, your feelings about Dave will cast a shadow over your Thanksgiving. You don’t want that. And you certainly don’t want it to cast a shadow over your relationship with your sister. Remember how you two used to stay up all night giggling during family vacations? Or how you helped get her all dressed for her first middle school dance? Yeah, that sister. You are not going to lose her over something as silly as Dave.
So, then, you really have a choice: you can either choose to dislike him, or you can choose to like him.
Yes, I use the word “choose” deliberately. If you think about it, there is nothing inherently “wrong” about how Dave behaves. He isn’t cheating or stealing or causing you any sort of bodily harm. Your whole negative experience of Dave comes from this chain of events:
For example, let’s say that Dave makes a comment about his great new role at work. It could play out like this:
The thing is, the majority of that process is under your control. You are the one who interprets what he says, and labels it as right or wrong, pleasing or annoying. You are the one who chooses to have a negative experience of what he says.
You could just as well run this sequence:
Neither one is “the truth” of the situation, but rather just what you make of it. So then the question you should be asking yourself is: Which approach builds me the Thanksgiving I want?
If you want a relaxed and fun Thanksgiving where you get closer to your sister, then you should pick the second thought sequence.
If you want a Thanksgiving where you prove yourself right about how wrong your brother-in-law is, then pick the first.
What type of Thanksgiving do you want to have? Which thought sequences will sabotage that Thanksgivings? Which ones will you choose instead?