The holidays are coming up. And for some, family get-togethers mean family tension. But you can defuse that tension with a little advanced planning.
1. Decide in advance how you will respond.
There is a difference between reacting and responding. A “response” is based in wisdom, which requires forethought. A reaction is based purely in emotion. It is as though someone can push a specific button and know they will get a specific response from you – whether that response is anger, withdrawal, pouting, or jealousy. Deactivate the automatic reactions that have become your pattern. You’ll often find that when the button no longer gets the reaction, people stop pushing it. So coach yourself with these two questions: What behavior or words have caused stress or contention in the past and how did I react? If that behavior occurs again, what is the response I will choose?
2. Remove the source of conflict.
This one’s not always possible, but often it is. For example, if you stay at a relative’s home during the holiday, and the close quarters create conflict, choose a new arrangement. Perhaps you get a hotel room instead. It may cost you more financially, but the emotional peace could be well worth it.
3. Leave the past out of today’s conversation.
When you’ve dealt with difficult people for a long time, sometimes it can be easy to bring up the past. That’s no surprise. The past is precisely the reason you are reading this article! They’ve done something previously that makes you anxious about spending time together now. But the truth is, there is nothing you can do to change the past. What do you want? What memory do you want to create this holiday? If you knew this was your last Christmas with this difficult person, what would you want to make sure you did or said? Act from that place. It is a place of clarity and urgency. Answering that question will help you cut through all the fussing, pettiness and frustration so you can approach the holidays in a way that honors what you really want in your relationships – joy, forgiveness and peace.
We must come to relationships for what we can give, not simply what we can get. When you detach from your insistence that people behave in certain ways and give you emotionally what they are simply not equipped to give you, you free yourself from unnecessary suffering. And you give yourself the gift of enjoying the holidays – regardless of who you spend them with.