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How To Deal With People You Don't Like At Christmas

Many people get beyond excited during the festive season. The celebrations, the sparkly decorations, time off from work, nostalgic family recipes and gift-giving bringing smiles to faces everywhere.

But in my attempt at keeping things real, there are a few people who don’t particularly like certain aspects of this time of the year. Namely, some of the people they must spend time with. One may think of me as the psychologist Grinch, but if you could give me a mince pie for every time a client talked about how they are dreading seeing certain people around Christmas time, well, I’d have a lot of mince pies.

It might be an ex they have to sit around the Christmas table with, it might be their dad who puts too much pressure on them, it might be seeing a long lost cousin who is on a completely different frequency, it might be their uncle who constantly says inappropriate and offensive things (and who quite frankly should be #cancelled) or it might be their passive aggressive mother-in-law who still hasn’t forgiven them for not spending Christmas Day with her last year. The thoughts around what “could” happen on Christmas Day has rendered many full of anxiety and ready to pack their bags so they can spend it alone on a deserted island.

No one likes dealing with difficult people. But, if there’s ever a better time to conquer dealing with people you don’t like, it’s Christmas time. It’s a delicate art but dealing with problematic personalities is something you can learn. If you learn a few techniques for dealing with people you don’t like at Christmas, you also get the bonus skills to deal with others like them on the other 364 days of the year.

BE CLEAR ON HOW YOU WANT TO FEEL: Ask yourself in the morning of the gathering, what your intent for the occasion is and how you want to feel when you’re there. This way you are consciously guiding your mind about what feelings it needs to align with and how you need to behave to make that happen.

KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS: Be aware of what could possibly upset you and have a level of acceptance as to how someone is likely to behave. That way when someone says something or does something that could potentially upset you, it’s less likely to surprise you and turn your stress response on.

HAVE STRATEGIES IN PLACE: If you’re aware that you could get uptight or are even at risk of an outburst, have some actions ready to take to remove yourself from the situation and calm down. For some this might be deep breathing, it might be removing yourself from the room and going for a walk or even distracting yourself with talking to someone else.

DON’T PERSONALISE: Just because you don’t like someone’s behaviours, doesn’t mean they are doing it on purpose to annoy you. Try and come up with some alternative explanations as to why someone might say or do something you find difficult, that doesn’t involve you.

USE EMPATHY: Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s experience, perspective and feelings. It involves active listening, not judging and being curious as to what is going on for other people. It’s a powerful skill to have in negotiating difficult situations.

FIND COMMON GROUND: If you know someone has a certain interest in something positive, try and talk about that. What you will find is that they are likely to elicit a positive emotion by talking about this topic and are likely to feel more connected, less defensive and are less likely to be difficult.

SELF CARE: Make sure you consciously do activities around the event that you know are the antidote to stress for you. It might be meditation, exercise, reading a book, taking a salt bath or even use a boxing bag. That way you will be in a calmer mindset before entering a potentially stressful situation.

There is of course, always avoiding these people, but we don’t want to miss out on the fun events of Christmas. And in real life, we can’t always just run away from people that we find difficult, because the universe has a funny way of giving us a similar person in a different format at another time.



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