Enhance Thoughts

5 Phone-Centric Ways to Create a Strong Emotional Wifi Signal at Your Family’s Holiday Gathering

I thought I would share with you some last minute holiday advice for connecting with your family in a way that will promote beautiful, shared memories.

The difference between my advice and that of other professionals is that I’m only recommending strategies that enlist your phone to help you.

I like to think of our openness to connecting with people as our Emotional Wifi Signal (EWS), which lets everyone know that we’re coming from a place of sincerity and curiosity. It says that we genuinely care about their well-being.

A strong EWS has the powerful effect of promoting lasting memories of great laughs and togetherness.

It’s all too easy to accept the status quo and just roll into your family gathering with passive acceptance of the emotional blocks you maintain with certain people.

You EWS may also be blocked by anxiety, worry, grief and pressure to tie up lose ends before you take a full break from work.

If you show up to your holiday meal with a weak EWS signal, you can expect to feel more irritability than warm fuzzies toward your family.

Yes, the holidays have the power to bring out the worst in you. Greeting your family with a weak EWS can make you feel disconnected or hyperaware of family members’ quirks and faults. It can turn you into a judgment machine.

What kind of memory of this season’s family gathering ‘s do you want to live with for eternity?


If you want to stick with the lazy approach, the holidays are the perfect time of year to lose yourself in your screens and completely tune out your family.

Since most of us are already used to enlisting help from our phones to zone out from anything uncomfortable, I’ve come up with a game plan for enhancing your Emotional Wifi Signal that incorporates your pocket technology.


(The Pre-Gathering Digital Warmup)

  1. Create a pet peeves phone note.

In preparation for your family gathering, create a list on a note in your phone containing the behaviors of family members who have historically brought out the worst in you. For example, you might write “I can’t stand it when my sister tries to steal my parents’ attention away from me.”

In the spirit of gaining greater control of your negative reactions to family members, write the following two questions under each pet peeve:

a. How is my sensitivity to this behavior a mirror of what I’ve struggled with but have had a hard time admitting?

b. What is my family member’s struggle which, if I took a moment to place myself in his or her shoes, would promote greater empathy, patience and understanding?

This exercise will assist you in strengthening your EWS as you prepare to face your emotional kryptonite.

(At the Family Gathering)

  1. Make a digital avoidance confession and a new commitment.

Choose a family member with whom you’ve frequently chosen texting over meeting in person. Even if it’s only a mild issue, acknowledge your tendency to message people as a substitute for face-to-face interaction. If it applies to your behavior, discuss how technology has consumed you. Make a verbal commitment to spend more quality time with this family member over the next year.

Owning your part in why you haven’t made more of an effort to connect promotes accountability and humility. It also opens the EWS.

  1. Take an unexpected healthy selfie with a family member. 

Challenge yourself to approach a family member who you’ve been distant from or critical of over the past year. Surprise him or her by stating that you want to take a selfie together. Explain that it’s going to be a “healthy selfie, which is more about the process that goes into taking and posting the picture, rather the end result.” Share the following guidelines for a healthy selfie:

  • Avoid a lengthy photo shoot. Just take one or two shots.
  • Don’t edit your selfie in any way…just the raw version of the two of you.
  • Take risks with the camera by trying to be silly or creative for the photo.
  • Avoid checking the number of “likes” on your Facebook or Instagram profiles.
  • Respect the power of a selfie to ruin a perfect moment if it becomes too much of an event in and of itself.
  • Set an intention before snapping or posting your healthy selfie on social media to make sure that your motivation are coming from a healthy place. (For example, say, “Let’s remember this moment together with a healthy selfie.”)

A gesture of bonding and interest via a shared healthy selfie can be the start of a stronger EWS between you and someone you’ve had a hard time approaching or getting along with.

  1. Start a discussion with family members about the impact of technology on quality time.

Acknowledge everyone’s opinion as a valid opinion. Don’t make anyone feel wrong for what they believe, even if you disagree with them. Let people experience a new level of curiosity and acceptance from you during the discussion.

Make sure to say something like, “Quality time now means something different because it usually involves splitting your attention between a screen and your loved one.”

Your EWS will fill the room if you show your family members how much you respect their opinions. Let them experience your most curious and gentle self.

  1. Set an example by declaring that you’re putting away your phone to focus on the people you love.

(I know this is a bold move, but)…Show your family how much you value them by giving them the experience of your uninterrupted attention. Declare that you want quality time with your family. Share your struggle by acknowledging how hard it is to put away your screens and stop yourself from checking them.

A demonstration of undivided attention strengthens the EWS by showing your family how much you care about getting the most out of your time with them. If you stick to your word, you’ll be modeling integrity and genuine interest.

I hope you find these recommendations helpful.

Happy Holidays to you and your family!


Dr. Greg

Greg Kushnick, Psy.D. on Instagram
Greg Kushnick, Psy.D.
FOUNDER AND BLOGGER | Techealthiest.com
Dr. Greg Kushnick is Techealthiest's founder and blogger. He works as a clinical psychologist in private practice in Manhattan. On a broader scale, he is dedicated to helping the world adjust to (and eventually thrive with) new and unfamiliar lifestyle technology. Dr. Greg's inner blogging machine is fueled by his fascination with how personal technology impacts the way people think, feel and act. He thrives on the challenge of applying interpersonal dynamics to the human-gadget relationship and presenting his ideas to readers in a helpful way. He considers himself a family man and an explorer of city culture.
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