Hard as we try to avoid them, sometimes we must confront difficult people and tricky social situations, maybe even at a holiday dinner. To insist on thinking that a reasonable person can overcome any and all obstacles, making all parties equally happy is to sacrifice your self-esteem, because the reality is that sometimes there is nothing you can do to make everyone happy. Holiday time will bring family together, and sadly old conflicts could also come up.
Hiding from conflict doesn’t help. Sitting in the background, keeping quiet, staying out of the way, is not going to solve anything. Instead, passively withdrawing from interaction is likely to backfire with an angry outburst that can be aggressive, leaving you feeling victimized and everyone involved with hurt feelings, making already strained relationships even weaker.
Aggressiveness can vary from disrespectful, manipulative, or demeaning, to abusive. Aggressive people need to win, and fail to look at things from another persons point of view. While being aggressive, a person wants to win, retaliating for perceived wrongs, and creating unnecessary conflict. In the wake of aggressive conflicts, relationships are left damaged, everyone involved feels like a victim, and any social support that may have existed is lost.
The better way is to follow a balanced path of being open and honest about your feeling in a non-judgmental way. Don’t try to change the behavior of others, but limit how their behavior effects you, by calmly and assertively expressing how you feel without engaging in a power struggle, or getting defensive. Sometimes a distraction, like excusing yourself to go to the bathroom, is very effective for interrupting any conversation that you need to get out of politely. Other distractions include offering to get beverages or snacks, or checking on what the children might be up to so quietly in the other room. Stay calm, and don’t rise to the bait that is offered.
When you are hit hard by disrespectful and abusive treatment, it is how your judge yourself that counts. If you know you are a good and loving person, who is competent and worthy of respect, then you have good self-esteem. Having good self-esteem will allow you to bounce back from difficult encounters with others, and will help you to treat yourself respectfully. As you treat yourself respectfully, others will also treat you with greater respect.
Communicating with assertiveness, will lead to fewer conflicts, help you build strong supportive relationships, and lead to less stress not only during the holidays, but throughout the year. Make a plan and be ready to act.