I don't know about you, but traveling with my family often feels like I'm traveling with a bunch of food critics, travel reviewers, and nit-picky never satisfied types who have something to say about everything. I am glad everyone's brain is engaged and they have something to share, but hearing that no one's excited to try something new, or that something "sucks" can be a real downer. After all the time and effort it takes planning and executing a trip, hearing a slew of negativity from folks who are "unable to see the forest for the trees" can really wear you down, ruin your day, or even your trip. After 15 trips in 10 years I've learned how to handle the "complainers" and I am here to share with you my best advice to help you do the same.
1. Use a "First Strike" strategy The night before or the morning of your trip explain to your crew that you've worked really hard to arrange a great trip and that the goal is for everyone to enjoy themselves. Explain that as much as you've tried, even the best laid plans can hold some unexpected and not so great surprises. Let everyone know that you need them to be sensitive to your feelings if and when they voice their discontent. Give specific examples of terms and phrases that particularly rub you the wrong way. Before setting out on our last adventure to Park City, Utah, I spoke up and told my boyfriend Jordan that I really didn't like it when he would say, "Cmon, I expect more from Explore All 50" when something went awry. You know what, some things did go not according to plan and he didn't say it the whole trip. It made me feel good that he was sensitive to my feelings and I enjoyed my trip so much more without that added pressure.
2. Make it a discussion instead of an argument The biggest thing I've learned in all my travels listening to my kids complain, is to just not take it personally. It's hard not to and I must admit it took me a long time to get to where I am now. What I've found works as an effective strategy is to put the comments into a different context. Try to imagine that you and your fellow travelers are professional critics and engage in a discussion sharing your opinion as well. You may agree with them that the restaurant was a total dive, so go ahead riff right along with them about why it was so horrible. If you thought an experience was awesome, don't let the naysayers bring you down, defend your opinion making sure in the end to agree to disagree. The important thing is that everyone feels respected and heard.
3. Focus on what's important and then find your inner zen Ok, I admit, listening to my kids complain makes me angry, because I see how fortunate they are to have an amazing opportunity and they don't appreciate it. I have no patience for spoiled. When my crew gets out of hand with their nonsense, I stop whatever we are doing and let them know they are out of line and explain why. Sometimes it takes more than just a conversation, sometimes it takes a consequence like taking something away and sometimes the stakes need to be raised until it sinks in and stops. Like me, I am sure at this point your blood is boiling, but I've learned the hard way the best thing to do once it's gone this far is to take a deep breath and put it all into perspective. You need to realize it's the immaturity that's so aggravating and that one day they will grow out of it....you and I did. Whatever happens keep having fun, if they want to be miserable, let them, just keep smiling and don't let a bad attitudes ruin your trip. Everyone will get over it and when you look back on it -all you'll see are smiling pictures in all the photos and all you'll remember is the awesome time you had.