Are you dreading the way you’ll need to navigate difficult relationships during the holidays? Here are 7 proactive ways to survive … and possibly thrive!
Christmas songs already have started playing on local radio stations, and without fail one of the first ones I’ve heard is the familiar, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”
That song always gets me. Sure, it sounds nice and old fashioned. And I love Christmas. I really do. But this time of the year isn’t necessarily my favorite because without fail, it celebrates excess in everything:
- An excess in spending,
- An excess in calories,
- And an excess in scheduling.
For someone who’s quite content with living within reasonable boundaries, all the excess wears me out by the first of January.
And when I hear that song, I’m well aware that this time of year is NOT wonderful for everyone.
People may be suffering from grief or heartache. Or, you may simply dread the need to navigate difficult relationships.
When your feelings are hurt and relationships are strained
While extroverts love gathering with people and introverts dread it, one common factor unites the two personality types at the holidays: It’s tough to be around people at gatherings if and when you just don’t get along.
If you try to avoid conflict in everyday life, you may know exactly who you DON’T want to talk to:
- People might have hurt your feelings, either intentionally or unintentionally.
- Maybe, through Facebook, you’ve learned how philosophies and opinions that your friends or family members have are COMPLETELY different from your own.
- You might be in the middle of an epic argument and don’t want to talk to whoever is at odds with you.
- Maybe you simply don’t like certain people or they tend to grate on your nerves, and the less time you spend with them the happier you are.
Whatever the reason, it’s natural to NOT want to spend time with every single person.
But at holiday gatherings, there’s a great possibility you may be in the same room with those people you try so hard to avoid.
So what do you do?
7 ways to navigate difficult relationships & survive holiday parties
When you just don’t like to be around someone (or, quite honestly, they’re difficult to endure) but you know you’ll see them at a holiday party, here are 7 tips on how to survive:
1. Remember that it’s just one party.
Because it’s (hopefully!) just one get-together, remind yourself that it’s just a few hours. You don’t have to spend extended amounts of time together. It will be OK.
2. Adjust the time spent together, if possible.
If it’s appropriate and possible, try to go to the party later or leave earlier. If the time’s set in stone, though, this option may not work.
3. Make a game plan ahead of time.
Of course, you don’t know what will be said. But think of conversation starters that will be tolerable. As much as you can, try to avoid whatever topics are exasperating.
While you’re at it, think of a polite response to stick to if your unlikable person starts talking about something you’d rather avoid.
4. Think about how you can occupy yourself.
If you’re at a party, you don’t necessarily have to spend all your time glued to the person who bugs you. Look for ways you can help out – maybe help serve or do a little clean-up. Or, you could entertain children if they’re around.
If those helpful tasks aren’t your style, think of other people you can talk with.
5. Remember that you’re adults.
Petty behavior should be something you’ve outgrown. If not, it’s time to start learning how to do that.
6. Be the bigger person.
Even if someone else treats you poorly, you don’t have to mirror their behavior or words. Be the bigger person and don’t fuel the fires of a feud.
Also be sure to keep in mind that kindness goes a long way. The Bible is spot on with the advice that a gentle answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1).
7. Leave when necessary.
If, despite all your best intentions and efforts, things still get ugly, just leave. Either leave the room, or, if necessary, leave the gathering. It’s better to go before you say or do something you’ll regret later.
If you just can’t do it …
One final option is to consider how awful your relationship problem is. If it’s so severe that it will completely zap all the peace and joy from your season, it may be a good idea to simply not go to the party. In the name of saving your own sanity, this is a very viable option.
However you decide to deal with the situation, remember that this time of the year may not be the most wonderful … but it doesn’t have to be the worst, either.
Once you survive the gathering, breathe a sigh of relief … it’s over! Hopefully you can celebrate surviving your difficult relationships this holiday season without too much trouble or stress.
If you’ve navigated difficult relationships during the holidays before, what’s worked well for you? What’s been disastrous?
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