Dealing with Difficult People during Holiday Gatherings: 10 Tips
Written by Dr. Markel, November 20, 2019
You’re tired, he’s irritable, and she’s overwhelmed. It isn’t even Thanksgiving and you may feel drained and stressed just thinking about the upcoming holiday season.
Given the extra chores and stress brought on by festivities, a first step is to ensure you’re not one of “those difficult people. ” Effective planning, organizing, and working with others are key aspects to consider. When you have made your lists, prioritized tasks, and scheduled time you have a greater feeling of control and less stress. Under such conditions, you’re apt to have the patience and energy to get things done without roughing other’s feathers. Just as you plan holiday tasks and times, consider work or family festivities and how to deal with others who may be stressed, tired—and difficult.
1. Visualize previous gatherings and the most and least difficult people/situations. Think about how to increase the positive aspects. Be friendly and gracious, For example, be the first one to smiles and says. “Hello, how are you doing?” See someone standing alone? Go over and spend a few minutes of one-on-one time. Is there an older person or newcomer to the group that needs some special attention?
2. Prepare your plan. How will you handle critical or nosey people? Are there difficult questions or issues that you would rather avoid? Prepare and practice your responses. For example, you have been looking for a job, but don’t want to go into it. Say, “I’m looking at options and will fill you in another time.” If you are a person who needs a bit of time to respond to an unexpected question, say, “ You’ve caught me off guard, give me a minute to think about it.”
3. Accent the positive. Identify an enjoyable memory or incident to discuss with colleagues, friends or family. Focus on gratitude and kindness. Find a few neutral topics of conversation including sports, TED Talks, or photos of positive experiences. Consider positive background music.
4. De-stress before the event. Good rest and exercise boost energy and help you focus on positives. When you are tired and stressed, you may have a short fuse. Arrange some time to rest and recharge during the gathering. Quietly help with the refreshments or just walk around.
5. Have reasonable expectations: Do you have an image of the totally caring, supportive, and positive work or family group as depicted in old television shows? Ask, “What are my expectations and are they realistic?” What would it take for me to be satisfied at a particular gathering?”
6. Identify emotional triggers. Is it the sarcastic comment, a negative memory, or someone who just aggravates you that triggers an overly emotional response? Be mindful of your rough edges and know how you can deescalate if necessary. Remember not to use alcohol as a stress reducer.
7. Avoid hot topics. Do you need to make some rules? For example, “Leave your phones and politics at the door.” You can use constructive self-talk. For example, say, “I practiced what to say if I want to avoid certain topics. You can use positive assertion. For example, say, “That is an interesting comment, but we agreed no politics for today.”
8. Practice listening skills. Give others a chance to contribute by asking open-ended questions. People love to talk about themselves if you give them a chance. You can begin with a neutral topic such as a favorite book, movie, or series. When you don’t know how to respond? Consider a few “grunt” responses, such as, “Oh, Wow. That’s interesting.”
9. Bloopers happen. If you make an error, stop, breath, and say, “I apologize. Let’s hit the reset button.”
10. Guests with special needs? Have some new interesting game or toy for youngsters. or special seating for those who may be hard of hearing or have chronic pain.
Consider these tips while planning for the upcoming holiday season. If you’d like to discuss these tips and other methods for managing stress and satisfaction, contact Dr. Geri directly at: Geri@ManagingYourMind.com