In many ways, this is the best time of year, a time for catching up with friends and family, taking breaks from work, special foods, peace and goodwill.

And as with many good things, there is another side to the holiday coin. You can’t avoid the uncle who brags endlessly about his kids, the neighbor who hovers under your elbows in the kitchen, or the undisciplined niece who plays catch with a crystal vase while her oblivious father picks non-finger food off the serving dishes before you are ready to serve. Overworked with planning, shopping, decorating and cooking, you may feel extra sensitive or testy, adding to the potentially explosive mix.

Skills you’ve already learned in this blog or from my book or classes can help at this time:

  • Start ahead of time to meditate at least 10 min. each day during the run up to the big events.
  • When tempted to put the verbal match to that explosive mix, take a break, even if it means locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes, then think about what, if anything, you want to say.
  • If you decide to assert yourself with that uncle, neighbor, niece or brother-in-law, but don’t want to cause a rift, focus on interests in a matter of fact way and try to minimize wrong-making:
    • When the bragging uncle pauses (he has to breathe sometime!), paraphrase, “Sounds like Donald Junior is doing well.” Then ask an open question of someone else, “How does Cousin Abby like college, Aunt Liz?”
    • Say to the neighbor, “I’m not the best multi-tasker. Last time I visited in the kitchen while cooking, I measured wrong and ruined a pie. It would be a bigger help if you could keep Granny entertained in the living room while I finish up. Then you and I can have a relaxed catch up after dinner.”
    • Take the vase away from the child and put it where she can’t reach. Then hand her father a ball and say, “How about taking Joan outside to let off some energy before we sit down to eat?”

This will be my last blog article till after the New Year. Wishing you all safe, warm, happy and persuasive.