3 Tips for Dealing with the Most Difficult People that Cause Holiday Season Anxiety


Are you filled with the holiday spirit, or exhausted by the pressures this end-of-year season tends to pile on? Looking forward to a few weeks of whirlwind shopping, cooking, and parties, or stressed out by just the thought? Eager for those annual get- togethers with the extended family, or dreading obligatory time with those relatives who need better boundaries and common sense? Either way, you aren't alone.

Chances are, if you are energized by this time of year, you aren't reading this blog. But if you are, perhaps you are searching for a few suggestions for handling difficult people or situations, and for lowering anxiety.

To successfully navigate encounters with people you deem "difficult", it's useful to first think about how it is they bother you. Chances are feeling manipulated, threatened, or not good enough will be at the root of what makes certain people seem difficult.

The Overly-Enthusiastic Advocate -- aka, the Pusher

This is the person who insists you try a food dish you're allergic to, or who won't take no for an answer when you try to decline an invitation to the 4th party on the same day. Resisting your resistance, they push and push, trying to humorously guilt you into getting out of your rut, or letting others enjoy your company.

It bothers you because you don't want them to feel bad, or think you don't like them, but you also know that giving in will leave you literally sick and tired. You might not consciously feel manipulated, but your body will on your behalf.

Tip 1. The best suggestion for dealing with the pusher is to repeatedly say No Thanks. The trick to that is to be unwavering, and the secret to that is in holding firm to your conviction that you know what is best for your body and energy. You don't have to give an excuse for your refusal. Just say No Thanks, smile, and move on -- change the subject or literally walk away.

The Lewd Rude Drunk -- aka, the Perv

This is the person who makes obnoxious remarks about your clothing showing off your figure, or talks to you / about you in a highly sexualized manner. When you tell them to stop, they get worse. Others make excuses for the perv, adding to your sense of feeling unsafe and offended.

It bothers you because it really is beyond the bounds of decency. You feel threatened in a deeply somatic way, and no one else seems to get that. If you have experienced being sexually assaulted before, these lewd rude comments may even trigger a trauma response panic attack.

Tip 2. Regardless of whether the perv is your brother-in-law, aunt or uncle, relative, co-worker, or acquaintance of any kind, know that you have the right to assertively tell them they are out of line, and that you want them to stop it.

Chances are they won't, though, so be prepared to avoid and ignore that person, or even leave if you must. As tempting as it might be to dump a drink on their head, most growthful thing to do is to confirm to yourself that your instincts are right, that that is not a good place for you, and remove yourself.

The Non-Stop Talker -- aka, the Bore or Drama Queen

If you lean more to being an introvert, people who can talk your ear off about anything and everything will soon wear you out. You can't remember their name, and you're unsure why they are talking to you.

But they are telling you all about how they got dissed by a co-worker just before a child ran over their toes with a tricycle so they had to go to the ER where the nurse had the cutest earrings that they could never afford on their salary, and so on, without taking a breath. You might be able to nod politely as your smile feels frozen, your brain glazes over, and you silently plot to move to a deserted island.

It might bother you to feel trapped in socializing hell with the drama queen-bore because you actually wish you had such a comfort level with making conversation. If you believe it is rude to interrupt or change the subject, you could be caught in a double bind.

Their facility with being able to hold others' attention serves to painfully point up this deficit in your own personal skills. Unfortunately, your own conversation code prevents you from changing the dynamic. If you struggle with feeling not good enough socially, this can be an agonizing, anxiety-producing encounter.

Tip 3. This can be a perfect opportunity to practice boundary setting and assertiveness. Decide how long you want to listen politely, and while listening think of what you want to say when you extricate yourself from being a captive audience. You could decide to stretch your conversational code, interrupt and change the subject to a more substantial topic. Or you might decide to simply say, excuse me and walk away. Either way, taking control of what you allow in your presence, and doing so in a polite way, will help you reduce anxiety.

Here's hoping that your holiday season is filled with all the laughter, warmth and social interaction you desire, with few difficulties and stresses.

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