Sliding Door Moments: The Holidays

Be on the look-out for small moments that have big impacts

Find sliding door moments in your holiday season.

Find sliding door moments in your holiday season.


“Sliding Door Moments” are the words or gestures communicated to others that—despite seeming inconsequential—deeply affect the most important relationships in our lives.

In the fluster of the holiday season, sliding door moments are easy to miss. When multitasking, you can’t concentrate adequately on any one thing. You lose sight of what is important. Opportunities for intimacy glide away.

Busying yourself trying to make the holidays perfect for everyone,  it’s easy to let sliding door moments slide right by. When you are stressed, you keep interactions short in an effort to take care of business. However, what you succeed in doing instead is cutting connections with loved ones. You stop turning towards.

When turning towards becomes a rare occurrence, Negative Sentiment Override. This is illustrated in endless variations on the theme of family dysfunction in holiday movies. Why is all of this happening?

To begin with, many people feel awkward openly sharing their desires. The holidays, a stressful time for many, often exacerbate this anxiety. In the setting of a family reunion, people might feel uncomfortable voicing their deepest wishes.

As the prospect of rejection is unappealing, family members may say something quietly or not say anything at all. They may say something without words. You may find this exasperating. They are not trying to be unhelpful. The sliding door moment slips away, and they remain silent.

What can you do to avoid this painful mess?

You can set a positive example. Whether you want to build and strengthen individual relationships or encourage healthy group dynamics, your best bet is to be attentive and supportive, especially towards those who have trouble vocalizing their needs. To create an environment welcoming of bids, you have to build trust, demonstrating to others that their bids will be recognized and responded to.

Turning towards others and giving people individual attention can go a long way to making everyone feel more comfortable. This environment can be made safe enough to welcome bids and create great potential for connection.

Be on the look-out for sliding door moments and take advantage of them whenever possible. Remember to turn towards and connect with those you love.

Ellie Lisitsa is a former staff writer at The Gottman Institute and editor for The Gottman Relationship Blog.