Our resident life coach, Ariana Dunne, offers some practical tips on how to deal with difficult people this holiday season
1. Change your attitude, not the person
The first thing to note is that when you’re dealing with a difficult person, you absolutely cannot change them. I know you might wish that they didn’t indulge as much as they do over the holidays, maybe you wish they gave you more thoughtful gifts or maybe you wish they wouldn’t speak down or criticise you in the way they do. Sadly, if there is one thing we can’t control, it is another person’s actions. The good news is that we can control our own. How we choose to act or react to another person’s ill-gotten behaviour puts the power of the situation back into your hands.
2. Count to 10 before responding
If someone says something that irks you, take a 10-second breather before responding. In that time, think about what the best response will be for you. Your natural reaction may not give you the outcome you want so, for an easier life and a quick win, think of an alternative response that will appease the person whilst helping you to avoid unnecessary conflict.
3. Mindful Meditation
A little psychological planning in advance of Christmas can help such as mindful meditation, breathing exercises or talking a long walk before the gathering takes place. Use this time to focus on the positive aspects of that person, accept their faults and behaviours and remind yourself that their shortcomings are more to do with them than they are with you.
4. Accept responsibility
Often when we are dealing with a difficult person, we fail to see what we ourselves are contributing to the situation. If you know that an excess amount of alcohol might exacerbate a strained relationship then refrain from drinking alcohol when in the company of that person. The motto ‘everything in moderation’ will be key when managing your own responses during this time.
5. Set your boundaries
Setting some ground rules with people who you know might be at the centre of any potential conflicts prior to Christmas could allow you to address the problem head on rather than spending weeks worrying about it. Talk to this person about why they feel the need to cause arguments or drink too much at family gatherings. The person may be relieved that they get to talk about their concerns too and airing these grievances and concerns before the big day could prevent any conflict from happening at all.
6. Learn to say ‘No’
If you have been invited to spend four days in an environment which you know will be potentially difficult, shorten your stay to two days instead. It is okay to say no when you know that you will be triggered by being around a certain person for too long. Scheduling other plans with friends who improve your mood allows you to make your excuses as to why your visit is shorter than expected.
7. Pick your battles
There are certain topics best avoided such as politics, religion, personal beliefs and highly sensitive current affairs. If these start being discussed, try to politely change the subject, lighten the mood with a funny anecdote and, if needed, remove yourself from the conversation. While some topics might incense you, you may need to learn to agree to disagree on certain topics so that arguments are kept at bay.
8. Kill them with kindness
If you are dealing with someone who is quick to criticise and point out your faults, here are some things that may help. Before being in their company, write out a long list of your qualities to remind yourself of all the things you are good at. You can choose a couple of them to repeat as mantras to yourself whilst in the person’s company. Remember: When someone is overly critical, it is usually a reflection of their own insecurities. Most of the time, people who are overly critical of others may not even be aware that they’re doing it. So, you can try killing this person’s negativity with kindness – for every negative comment they make towards you, return a positive compliment to them. It will amuse you if nothing else.
9. Practice gratitude
You can find a space for gratitude for even the most annoying and troublesome of family members. Many people will be spending Christmas alone this year so knowing that you have family close, though they may grate on your nerves, is something to be grateful for and can help to ease your woes when in the throes of Christmas Day madness.
10. It will be over before you know it
Reminding yourself that Christmas comes once a year and is, in fact, just one day to endure, biting your tongue, plastering on a smile and laughing at the bad cracker joke might just be all the positive self-talk you need to make it through the day.