During the holidays most everyone feels over-extended. We are busy working, buying gifts, attending parties, cleaning, cooking, and sprinting to meet deadlines. These pressures, as well as trying to meet high expectations, make us more sensitive than usual. You may be dreading having to spend time at a holiday gathering with some of your least favorite people, whether it be coworkers, clients, relatives or in-laws. If you have a poor relationship with one or more of these people, just the thought of having to see them can be stressful.
Here is my advice for keeping negative emotions at bay to prevent conflict during your holiday gathering:
1. Spin the Confirmation Bias
If you have already lost trust in another person, and have cast a negative judgment upon them, you may think many of their actions are motivated by bad intentions or poor character because they are selfish or close minded, etc.. I encourage you to abandon hasty judgments. Its my experience that most people have good intentions most of the time and because life is what it is, bad results sometimes happen. A bad result should not be mistakenly blamed on a person’s motive or intention.
In psychology, confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to erroneous conclusions. For example, if you believe your boss favors your colleague over you, or your in-law doesn’t like you, you will be searching for signs that confirm that belief, and you will be ignoring signs that contradict that belief. Fight the confirmation bias by spinning it the other way. Instead, search for signs that your boss or in-law really likes you and interpret his or her behavior in the same favorable light.
2. Take a Slow, Deep Breath
The hormones created by stress constrict the flow of blood to our prefrontal cortex (the logical part of our brain), limiting intelligence. The blood goes instead to the part of our brain designed primarily for survival, which means when we are stressed we actually become less intelligent. Taking in slow deep breaths allows us to come back to the present and think rationally again. Regain control of your mind, and exercise patience and tolerance, just as you would like others to exercise for you.
3. Focus on the Positive
Be grateful to be alive and for the opportunity to spend time with others. Be grateful that you are at a Holiday party (after all, there are hundreds of places you could be that are much worse). Be grateful for what you have and the people in your life.