By John Pierce

Today I received a press release offering an interview with  “Confidence Coach” Bev Flaxington. The suggested topic was “getting along with family during the holidays.”

I didn’t set up an interview, but visited her web site and found a blog on the subject. She talks about how the holidays put us in social settings (company parties for those that can still afford them or festive meals with relatives whom we rarely see) where personalities can conflict.

Family dynamics could be discussed endlessly. However, my guess is that the most challenging holiday situations come, not from being around odd relatives, but when: (1) there are command-performance expectations (and manipulation if necessary) to be at a certain time and place, and (2) the appearance of perfection is required regardless of reality.

Fortunately, I’ve never faced (or perhaps accepted) such expectations and have found joy in taking a holiday vacation with just my immediate family, sharing meals with an assortment of relatives on either side and not denying any oddity found on a particular branch of the family tree.

And while my colleagues are spread from North Carolina to Montana, and unable to celebrate together during the holidays, I like them all. If they were nearby, I would gladly share a cheese straw or red velvet cupcake.

But if you are dreading an upcoming workforce event or family gathering, Coach Bev has some advice: Choose to not be upset!

Then she offers a mental strategy when encountering the coworker or relative who sets you off:

“I like to have an image of a duck when I am dealing with someone who is particularly unpleasant to me. As they are talking, I imagine their words rolling down my body as water does off the duck’s back. It falls to the floor and I can mentally stomp on it while they are talking. I know I might not be able to change them, but I can choose not to soak in what they are saying and have it ruin my own experience.”

Umm, OK. Whatever works. Sounds better than hitting someone with a turkey leg at Thanksgiving and then having to apologize at Christmas — because “our family doesn’t act like that.”

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