Donna 5

Make a PACT and Appreciate

by Donna Rustigian Mac, contributing writer

Typically, at this time of year, we read articles about how to communicate with “challenging personalities”, some family members and people you are forced to surround yourself with at the holidays.

What a difference a global pandemic makes.

The CDC is suggesting you follow their strict guidelines. Families are being asked to stay in “their bubble”. To only dine and congregate with the people you live with. If you must have guests, stay far apart, wear masks, etc….

So, for most, it’s turkey for two, or 6, or even just one. Surely this reality will give you extra time. The question is, “what will you do with it”?

If you’re graced with warmer weather, you might get in a hike or bike ride and, of course, a Thanksgiving Day meal. But then what?

You might be relieved not to have to spend time with “challenging” people over the holidays but, like millions, you might have extra time to consider some people and do what “you” can do to improve your relationship with them.

Remember, you can’t change anyone else, only yourself. This is a foundational rule of effective communication. And it is why so many relationships remain strained.

If you truly want different results (maybe you don’t–be honest!) there are steps you can take to build stronger bonds with people you really might miss if they never showed up again around a holiday table.

The following process includes both awareness and action steps.

First, take a deep breath, and think about the people you struggle communicating with. Now choose one. You may not want to choose the one you have the MOST trouble with. Instead, pick someone you wish you could become closer with as you learn this process.

  1. Begin by noticing your thoughts about that person. Do you have assumptions? Expectations? Are they high or low? What is your attitude about that person?
  • Now, take another deep breath and think about one thing you appreciate about that person. If your bad attitude or low expectations of that person tries to creep in, notice it and push those thoughts aside.  Is there one think that person has done that has been heart-warming? Brilliant? Where might the two of you be aligned?
  • From here, take another deep breath and contrast the negative and positive ways you’re thinking about that person. If you like, write them down to become clear. Now, on another breath, try to make an updated choice of how you view and value that person. Notice negative thoughts trying to creep in again. Thank those thoughts and set them aside. Focus on the appreciation. You might even feel this in your heart.
  • Finally, trust yourself that the process of breaking the habit of old assumption and antiquated thinking takes time. And action. So, consider one thing you could say to that person to show that you appreciate them. Once you say the words and talk, stay silent for a while and notice their demeanor.


Today you might not be able to work through this PACT process (person, appreciate, choice, talk) face to face, but we have a long holiday weekend and season ahead. And it’s my guess that you might have more than one person you could practice this process with.

It is such an evolutionary time. There much that is unpredictable and out of your control, including other people. What you can control is how you think and communicate with them.


Donna Rustigian Mac is the President of iVoice Communication. She coaches and trains individuals and the workforce how to navigate complex presentations and crucial conversations. Donna is also a motivational speaker and certified mindfulness teacher. She’s the author of Guide to a Richer Life, Know Your Worth, Find Your Voice, Speak Your Truth as well as The Six Pillars of Effective Communication.