Monday, December 19, 2011

How to Deal with Difficult People During Holidays

No No not dealing with me, you know I am a joy to be around at Christmas Time or anytime, this is about those other difficult people. I picked this up from FindLaw and thought it may be of interest and help. After all not all families and friends get-to-gathers are like those rosy Norman Rockwell pictures and sappy Hollywood movies.

In a greeting-card-perfect-world, the holidays would come and go each year soaked in the golden glow of pumpkin pie, eggnog, warm fellowship, and good cheer. In reality, however, the season is far from being a Norman Rockwell painting. It usually heralds the (often stressful) onslaught of obligatory family dinners, office parties, and reunions with old acquaintances. As a result, we often find ourselves forced to socialize with people we'd rather avoid altogether. Ever notice that there's at least one person in every social network who is an absolute displeasure to be around? Christina Eckert calls them "Wackos"--and she says they're as common this time of year as turkeys, tinsel, and Santa hats.

"'Tis the season to beware of the potential threat that lurks by every punch bowl or in every fireside wing chair," says Eckert, author of the new book Winning Against the Wackos in Your Life: How to spot them and stop them in their tracks ((c) 2007, Larstan Publishing, ISBN-10: 0-97768958-1, ISBN-13: 978-0-97768958-3, $14.95). "The Wackos you manage to avoid the rest of the year seem to be out in full force during the holidays."

Eckert says a Wacko is a wolf in sheep's clothing who shows up in your life and in one way or another makes you miserable. We all know at least one Wacko! He or she may be a nosy coworker, a bullying family member, or a competitive, jealous sorority sister from college. Regardless of how this person first crossed your path, she is here to stay and has a bone to pick with you no matter how pleasant you may be to her.

"Wackos are mentally unstable and will feed off of your vulnerability and passivity if you let them," asserts Eckert. "They often victimize and take advantage of friendly, polite, or timid people because they know that their behavior will be tolerated ... at least for a while."

Eckert is all too familiar with the Wacko agenda. Indeed, her book is packed with personal stories about the unstable individuals she has encountered on her own path. Sprinkled with humor and dry wit, it is a breath of fresh air for anyone seeking refuge from a world of Wackos. And anyone who has suffered the wrath of a Wacko certainly knows the cathartic effect of a good belly-laugh.

Because of the festivities of the season that lasts from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, Eckert says that Wackos practically come out of the woodwork this time of year. The good news, however, is that you are not obliged to stand helplessly in a corner as your crazy coworker, rude relative, or long-lost "friend" barrages you with his problems for hours on end. Eckert says that there are several smart ways to thwart a Wacko's attempts to undermine, manipulate, or victimize you. Read on to learn how you can take a stand and enjoy the holidays this year free from uninvited Wacko-wrath.

Trust your instincts with new acquaintances.

If a person you do not know approaches you at the office Christmas party, listen to your inner voice. It will help you determine whether this is a person you want to talk to. All too often your polite, "Hi, how are you tonight?" can lead to a one-sided chatter marathon from which you can't escape. Friendly and unassuming party-goers become accidental Wacko-hosts, because Wackos thrive from their energy and leave them helpless to get away. If you size up people you don't know before you are approached, you will already have an informed idea of where they fall on the Wacko-meter. Pay attention to people's body language, the decibel at which they speak in the group, and even how they are dressed. (Wackos love to be the center of attention.) You'll be glad you did when you see the same person rambling on to another too-polite-to-fight-it person for the rest of the evening.

Keep your personal life private.

It is okay to have a friendship with a Wacko as long as you maintain boundaries. When you run into your catty sorority sister at your alumni holiday mixer, beware of how much information you divulge. If you look closely, you may see that she is already flexing her claws and waiting to pounce on a disclosure that could become the grapevine's juiciest gossip. Wackos thrive on knowing and spreading dirt, so unless you don't mind one airing your dirty laundry, just keep it to yourself.

Prepare a get-away plan (perhaps up a chimney?).

Whether you have known your Wacko for years or just met him in line to meet Santa, you can get away more easily if you have a previously planned excuse. This provides an escape route should a new acquaintance or a crabby relative start to make you feel uncomfortable. Should this happen, a simple, "Gosh, it's 7:30 already? I'm sorry, but we have to be somewhere at 8:00. Nice to see you. Goodnight!" will get you off the hook and out the door. In fact, if you're attending the event with a spouse, date, or friend, you might want to let him or her in on the "commitment" so no clueless stammering or blank stares will give away your game as you're deploying the plan.

Diffuse ugly scenes with few words.

Unfortunately, the kind of encounters that lead to ugly scenes all too often involve Wackos who are also family members. The holidays breed such encounters simply because we feel obligated to socialize with relatives--sometimes even parents or siblings--we minimize contact with the rest of the year. If you know that Thanksgiving dinner will force you to converse with your hateful mother-in-law, then plan on using as few words as possible if she unleashes a tirade aimed at you. If she says, "Sarah, your ahem ... taste in ... fashion certainly hasn't changed in the ten years you've been married to my son," all you need to say is, "No, it hasn't. Excuse me." Eckert insists that five words or so is all anyone needs to diffuse an attack from a Wacko. Anything more and the Wacko feels like you are trying to justify yourself, which means that he or she has gotten under your skin. Don't give anyone the satisfaction of ruining your holiday. Other great replies to an unexpected attack are, "Too bad you feel that way," "Oh, really? Interesting," and "I need to be going."

Be choosy with your party priorities.

With all the stress and obligation surrounding them, it is difficult to remember that the holidays are about celebration, joy, and relaxation. Nothing can ruin your good time like too many forced social situations where you must interact with all of the crazies in your life. Remember this: You have the right to say NO to some of the invitations you receive during the holidays. For every three invites you receive, beg off at least one of them. You don't have to be at the mercy of those you would rather avoid. If it is too much to be around someone who really gets under your skin, then say, "Thank you very much, but we already have plans." You get to make the decisions about your life. Don't apologize or feel guilty!

If you're worrying that all this Wacko talk seems downright uncharitable during the holiday season, put your mind at ease. Eckert says that most Wackos are mentally unstable and need professional help. You can't save them by being a human punching bag. In fact, by providing an outlet for their bad behavior, you may actually be enabling and perpetuating it.

"If the idea of facing the Wackos in your life this holiday season is overwhelming, it may be time to kindly but firmly cut them out of your life," says Eckert. "The world is full of wonderful people you can share your friendship with. You don't need to associate with toxic friends and family who only make you miserable. True, the holiday season is a time for peace and joy, but you must realize that you deserve to enjoy these gifts as well. It may be very difficult, but de-Wacko-fying your life may be the best present you could give yourself."

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