December 1, 2014

How To Create a New Holiday Experience with Difficult People.


So, the holidays are here again.

Joy (to the world?).

This time of year, people are gathering en masse on a regular basis. This is great, and not just for our social health, but especially for our capitalist economy as it’s a time of excess for most of us. Excess spending, excess food, excess emotions and excess consumption (generally to deal with said emotions).

Tis’ the season of overdoing it.

While we’re all filled with the holiday spirit(s?) over these next few weeks we spend a lot of time with people. People we love, people we like, people we love but don’t like, people we like but don’t love, people we’ve never met, people we never wanted to meet, people we can tolerate in small quantities, and also, fortunately/unfortuntately, people that we spend the other 364 days of the year avoiding.

You know what who I mean?

Button pushers. Agitators. Instigators. Characters who send you running for the Belvedere before you can say “Bob’s your uncle” (because, um, actually, he is).

These are the people that you just downright wouldn’t choose to spend time with, pretty much ever, and for a variety of reasons. Maybe they have a lot of negative energy. Maybe they go out of their way to be difficult and offensive. They badger you with questions, make passive-aggressive remarks, put you down using lots of “jokes,” and purposely make statements in your presence that they anticipate will trigger you.

Ya feel me?


Here’s the thing, no matter what flavor of shut-the-f*ckupcakes you’d like to serve them, or where you’d like to place the mistletoe under which they may kiss your ass, remember that they are actively seeking engagement with you. They want your attention. It is intentional. Purposeful. And it stems from a basic human need for connection.

In other words,

“Every action is an expression of, or a cry for, love.”

The reason Uncle Frank is so annoying probably has something to do with his self esteem and he’s learned to manage it through negative attention seeking behaviors that feed his ego.

Aunt Susan makes condescending remarks about your “hippy-dippy cosmic lifestyle” and lack of  “real” job because of her own insecurities.

Your cousin from Back East whose dark commentary streams from the chair in the corner all evening? He feels like he doesn’t belong.

Your sister, the performer, interrupts conversations and tells loud stories and jokes using all of her appendages, ensuring she is constantly the center of attention because she wants to know you love and accept her.

Your mother, who drives you bat sh*t crazy, does so because of her own guilt, perception and needs, not yours. Granted, it may feel a bit less like a Hallmark commercial and more like a Steinbeck re-enactment, but at least she’s trying.

Love prompts us to act like total idiots sometimes.

Yes, even you can be an idiot too, and without much effort.

Whether you’d like to admit it or not, you fit into one of the previously mentioned categories for someone else. You might be the irritating one. The loud one. The attention seeker. The avoider. The overachiever.

Just like you don’t like everyone, well, not everybody likes you either. And, to add salt to the wound, the things that bother you most about someone else, are probably things you see in yourself.


Let’s add a serving of humble pie to scarf down before and after Nana’s famous pumpkin pastry, shall we?


However, as all things are impermanent (even your attitude), there exists the potential to change your experience. So, how about you try a new approach (and that sweater from Great Aunt Mabel) on for size.

How about this year you don’t come packing:

  1. Expectations
  2. Judgement
  3. Assumptions
  4. Agendas
  5. Boxes
  6. Fixed mindsets
  7. Lists, timelines, deadlines, and itineraries

Instead, let’s arrive full of:

  1. Mindfulness of the current reality—however and with whomever it shows up
  2. Positive perceptions and intentions
  3. Acceptance
  4. A willingness to see and serve
  5. An attitude of gratitude
  6. A growth mindset
  7. A open heart, schedule, and presence

In sum, you’ll find exactly the thing for which you are looking. If you look for love, you’ll find a warmed heart. If you look for softness, you’ll find a feather. If you seek peace and serenity, zen will find its way to you.

This year, self willing, you just might also find yourself smiling at the dinner table, and for real, not just because your brother just opened the third bottle of Zin.

Good luck to you all, self included.


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Author: Michelle Sweezey

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Movie Still

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