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Navigating difficult conversations during the holidays

Posted on 12-21-15 in Stress

Bringing together friends and family during the holidays seems like a fun idea. Catching up with everyone’s year and sharing stories can often work out for the best. However, troubles can begin when some individuals cross personal boundaries and step on each other’s toes. Navigating these landmines of unnecessary mental difficulty is essential to enjoying the holiday season.

John R. Stoker outlined several kinds of difficult people often popping up during the holidays in his article, “Tips for Handling Challenging Conversations during the Holidays.” He started by discussing “the competitor,” a person who tries to outdo other individuals in their accomplishments. This can elevate hostilities and remind people of what they do not have.

Stoker recommended trying to divert the conversation by saying phrases like, “What is the greatest thing you learned this past year?” This is a more positive phrase and can encourage reflection rather than ill will.

Above all else, family members of challenging people should not take offenses personally, according to Stoker, especially in cases of “the winner.” He or she is not interested in a discussion but rather feeling superior. Stoker personally attested to the futility of truly engaging with this behavior. He pointed out that providing nonconfrontational responses works best to stop trouble before it starts.

Setting boundaries is another overarching strategy for dealing with a number of difficult friends and family members. Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., an associate editor with Psych Central, championed the idea of individuals communicating their social desires and limits. She admitted that remaining calm while stopping negative behavior can be challenging, but it’s essential to diminishing tensions.

For example, if a family member is saying impolite remarks about another’s eating habits, calmly say, “Please do not talk about what he or she is eating. Thank you.”

If mental difficulties reach their peak and the idea of facing anyone – even the peaceful people – during the holidays is too stressful, Tartakovsky asserted that taking time off from all events is more than acceptable, especially if the individual in question is dealing with recent personal hardships. The death of certain loved ones can be especially challenging for many people during the holidays, requiring treatment from mental health professionals. These experts can ease stress brought on by grieving, holidays and more.

The Sovereign Health Group is on the forefront of behavioral health treatment. Our counselors treat patients with a variety of anxiety and depression disorders. To find out more, call our 24/7 helpline.

Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer