It’s that time of the year again. Tis the season of family vacations, holiday parties, and awkward celebratory work functions.  And whenever large groups of us are forced to share the same space for too long, especially after hours when alcohol and exhaustion are factored in, there’s a fairly high potential for unnecessary drama.

“I have difficult people in my family and social circles that I have to deal with at various holiday related gatherings over the next several weeks, and just thinking about it drives me crazy.  What can I do when these difficult people start getting on my nerves which is inevitable?  How do I shield myself from their negative behavior so I can keep my cool?  And what if I can’t completely get away from them?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.”

Truly, it’s a super common emotion to feel stressed out and annoyed by other people, especially those family, friends and coworkers with the closest ties to us.  But even when our feelings are justifiable, we don’t want anyone else’s presence or behavior to bring us down.  And we certainly don’t want to add to the drama around us.

So, what can we do when someone close to us is being annoying, irritating, rude or just generally difficult?

Well, assuming we’re not in any sort of real danger and we don’t need to physically protect ourselves, the best choice is often a simple mindset shift.  Rather than trying to change the other person, we change our response to them.

Simple Practices that Bring Peace

If you’ve nodded your head to anything you’ve just read, it’s time to…

1.  Notice the story you’re telling yourself about the other person.

Whenever you find yourself stressed out and irritated by how someone else is behaving, first notice that your mind starts to create a story of anger and resentment about them.  It’s about how they always behave in this irritating way, and how you are absolutely sick of them!  This story is harmful.  It immediately stresses you out, it keeps you exclusively focused on the negative qualities of the other person, and it ultimately makes you someone you probably don’t want to be.

2.  Interpret their negative behavior less personally.

When you sense negativity coming at you, give it a small push back with a thought like, “That remark (or gesture, or whatever) is not really about me, it’s about you (or the world at large).”  Remember that all people have emotional issues they’re dealing with (just like you), and it makes them rude and downright thoughtless sometimes.  They are doing the best they can, or they’re not even aware of their issues.

In any case, you can learn not to interpret their behaviors as personal attacks, and instead see them as non-personal encounters (like the rocky ground under your feet) that you can either respond to effectively when necessary (by putting your figurative shoes on), or not respond to at all.

3.  Take positive control of negative conversations.

It’s okay to change the topic, talk about something positive, or steer conversations away from pity parties, drama, and self-absorbed sagas.  Be willing to disagree with difficult people and deal with the momentary consequences.  Some people really don’t recognize their own difficult tendencies or their inconsiderate behavior.

You can actually tell a person, “I feel like I’m being criticized.”  You can also be honest if their overly negative attitude is what’s driving you away: “I’m trying to focus on positive things.  What’s something good we can talk about?”  It may work and it may not, but your honesty will help ensure that any communication that continues forward is built on mutually beneficial ground.

4.  Model the behavior you hope to see.

When someone insists on foisting their drama on you, be an example of a pure existence.  Disregard their antics and focus on compassion.  Communicate and express yourself from a place of peace, from a place of love, with the best intentions.  Use your voice for good, to inspire, to encourage, to educate, and to spread the type of behavior you want to see in others.

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