You would have thought it was the Grinch talking!
“This is the one time of the year I’m forced to be around people I can avoid the other 11 months.”
That sounds like a line from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or the words of Mr. Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
It’s a statement one of my clients made. He is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet; yet, that’s how he felt about what is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Do you sometimes feel like that? If you do, it’s understandable, and you have lots of company.
Picture all the office parties, crowded stores, heavy traffic, family gatherings, year-end work, road trips, over-spending, air travel, meal preparation, etc. This season is overloaded with hectic activities and carried on under an avalanche of stress.
At Christmas or whatever you call it or celebrate during the holidays, all of the excitement, commotion, and frustration can be traced back to a common source. People! If you could make all the people you meet “nice,” you would reduce at least 90-percent of the stress.
Since you can’t do that, and no healthy person wants to, what can you do?
One of my genuinely “nice” friends and colleagues, Christie Ward (no relation), made five suggestion in her weekly blog about de-stressing the holidays:
1. Spend time with happy people.
2. Be careful with your expectations.
3. Drive around to see the lights in your neighborhood.
4. Do not overspend or overindulge.
5. Visit your house of worship.
To Christie’s advice, I would add one more suggestion for those head-on meetings with people who are anything but nice.
Before you are caught in a conversation that becomes heated, determine this holiday that you will be a thermostat, not a thermometer. That is a catchy idea another genuinely “nice” friend of mind, Tommy, gave me.
He would say, when things are heating up—for instance, over politics at the office party or a family gathering—you can be a thermometer. The temperature controls the thermometer. Alternatively, you can be a thermostat. The thermostat controls the temperature.
If you are like a thermometer, you will allow the topic to pull you into the heated emotions of the other person.
However, you always have the choice to cool the conversation down. To do that, choose to:
1. Remain cool on the inside.
Too many holiday conversations generate more heat than light. In that state, no one will see the other person’s position, much less change.
2. Listen attentively to the individual.
That doesn’t mean you agree, but it does mean you seek to understand her or him. You have accomplished a significant win for your personal development when you can accurately and calmly tell the other person what you heard her or him say.
3. Find something positive to insert.
Whatever the topic, find something you can truthfully say you appreciate or value about the person or the context of the position he or she takes. That requires you to stay calm within and to remember to the degree the talk heats up, to that same degree understanding will go down.
If the tripwire is politics, you might insert something like the following:
“I am glad we live in a country where we can freely discuss our views. Aren’t you?”
“I appreciate the fact that you care about this.”
“You stated your position well.”
“I am glad our relationship is stronger than our political differences.”
Be a thermostat! Lower the temperature!
You can do it, and you will make the season better for everyone!