When it Really isn’t “About You”

It’s almost the holidays – people are checking out, gift-wrapping in the office and online shopping with purpose (albeit somewhat manically, myself included). It’s time to cue the cheesy holiday specials, enjoy an extra eggnog, and prepare for festive family gatherings with this quick holiday guide.

And, while all that may look good on the outside, what I know is that many of my clients bring people issues to our coaching calls at this time of year because they are deeply concerned by what may happen when their family gets together.

The rest of the year most interactions with people difficult people in your life can be avoided — if you have an avoider preference like many people do. But at this time of year, excuses to not attend a family gathering may not ring true.

Now, the topics of the day might include:

How do I not let my mother-in-law’s criticisms bother me?

What do I do when the drunk uncle oversteps again?

How do I tell my sister-in-law that I really don’t appreciate her way of “helping?”

My brother and his family just let their kids run wild! We parent differently than they do and that always causes issues when we gather as a family.

How do I not get disappointed that things aren’t the way they “used to be?”

No matter the situation, these people issues at family gatherings almost always come down to one of three things:

  • A Conflict of Personality Styles
  • A Conflict of Values
  • Some deep-rooted concern that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand

So, what to do about it? Try to follow my holiday guide:

1. Detach

Holiday guideOne wonderful strategy that I’ve learned is to detach from the situation and observe. What if you were not in the room and were watching the situation like a movie that’s playing out? What would you notice about the dynamics? What would you chuckle at if you weren’t so close to the situation?

In Positive Intelligence, as we activate and cultivate our “Sage” powers, we call this the EXPLORE power. Look at the people you’re gathering with as a bit of a social experiment. What makes them tick? What do they care about? What is causing them to interact or respond in the way they do?

2. Empathize

And then, what would activating the Sage power of Empathy bring to the situation? If you saw things from their point of view, from their experience, history and wiring, how would empathy serve them (and you) in the situation? I’ve learned that I’m quite naturally quite high in Empathy – it’s my number one strength, in fact, on the Strengthsfinder Index. Many people don’t have this strength in their top five (and believe me, when overused it can be a weakness as I try to solve everyone else’s problems or get overinvolved) so…. let’s use this strength with wisdom.

What is that person’s life experience that could be causing them to act in this way? No matter what your opinion may be about how you may have dealt with a situation if you were in their shoes, it’s not about you (this time) – it’s about them. Trying to understand where they’re coming from could help defuse the situation before it’s aflame.

3. Accept

What do you know your family is like that is likely to not have changed since the last time you gathered? As one wise woman said to me once, “When people show you who they are, believe them!” Why do you keep expecting the people around you to change? Go into the situation knowing they are likely going to show up just as they have for the last 20 years. Accept the situation. You don’t have to love being around them or love the things they say, but accepting that this is the way it’s going to be, could go a long way to getting through the holiday event unscathed.

4. Walk Away

When a reaction or a point of view seems completely off-side, it likely is. W-A-L-K A-W-A-Y. It has nothing to do with you. It’s more about the individual who is upset or who is picking a fight. Here are some things you can say in that situation:

  • I’m surprised you feel that way, tell me more.
  • Interesting! (and stop there.)
  • I’m sorry things have been difficult for you
  • Smile and nod
  • Politely change the subject and move on

Happy HolidaysNo matter how you spend your time this holiday season, I invite you to follow the holiday guide above and go into a potentially conflict-ridden gathering with your patience, a smile and the Sage perspective of knowing it’s not about you. Honour your values, be your personality, and the rest will flow.

Happy Holidays from me to you. And I look forward to 2023 and to leaning even more into all of you who are and how you can leverage those skills, talents and strengths to advance your life, your career and your business, the way you want.

To your success,

Susan Elford

Susan Elford is a Leadership Coach and Business Mentor who especially loves to work with women who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a full and satisfying life. Through powerful career coaching and business mentorship to get their career or business to the next level, Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.


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