Ask a Happify Coach: How Do I Deal with Difficult Family Members During the Holidays?None By Derrick Carpenter
Q: I have family that is very hard to be around due to personal differences (i.e. personality, political views, etc.) and find it hard to be around them too long. How do I handle being around them during the holidays? I wouldn't want to just say no to visiting them because it would be very hurtful to them.
Derrick Carpenter: Spending time with people who think very differently than us can be really difficult, especially if they tend to push our buttons. While there's no perfect approach to these situations, here are a few that may help:
1. Practice managing your own emotions before you even see your family.
Doing just a few sessions of meditation, even if you've never tried before, can help give you more flexibility and control over what you feel. By reducing your emotional reactivity, you make the buttons these people push a little smaller, and make it less likely to turn into an all-out quarrel. Happify has great resources for meditators of all levels.
2. You mention not wanting to hurt your family by declining the invitation.
This is a sign that you care about these people despite the differences. When you focus on what you care about and appreciate in them, you build more room for forgiveness. Reminding yourself before you walk into their home of a few things you love about them might make being around them more enjoyable.
3. Lastly, having an ally can make all the difference in the world.
If you attend these events with a partner or other family members you trust, talk with them about your concerns in a constructive way. Go into the event together with a game plan to do your best to keep the interactions positive and support each other in the process. Even if your family works against you, you're strengthening your bond and connection with someone you trust and love, and that can give an otherwise difficult evening a much greater meaning.
Got a question for positive psychology coach Derrick Carpenter? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Ask A Happify Coach."
Derrick Carpenter, MAPP, coaches individuals on living engaged and inspired lives, runs experiential corporate leadership programs, and trains US Army personnel on resilience. He's researched what makes people great in psychology labs at Harvard, Yale, and UPenn, where he received his Master of Applied Positive Psychology.
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