Here we go again. It’s that time of year when some of the events we attend feel more like duties than celebrations. Inevitably the guest lists include a few people whose world-views or personalities make us crazy. Still, we’re supposed to enjoy the interactions and emerge from them with relationships intact. (After all, these folks are family or co-workers and they’ll be in our lives, like it or not, for years to come!)
I know from some terrible personal experience that it’s really easy (especially after a few drinks) to indulge my feelings of irritation and let loose with some nasty rants or extended arguments that leave me feeling like a real jerk on the drive home. And worse, they often leave me with a relationship mess to clean up the next I see the people with whom I’ve done verbal battle.
As I’ve grown older and a little wiser (or simply more battle-scarred), I’ve found that the best way to handle these events without leaving a trail of nasty arguments behind is to prepare myself mentally by resolving to 1) step back and do my best to think like a philosopher and, 2) be prepared to become an amateur therapist.
In the philosopher role, when I’m faced with an irritating person, I can ask myself: “What’s the broader context here? What’s this person’s world view? How did it evolve? Can I see things more from their perspective?” And in the amateur therapist role, I can ask myself: “What’s going on with this person? Where’s their pain? Can I somehow empathize or offer encouragement or praise that could help them feel better?” In short, after years of making mistakes, I’ve learned that the best way to survive these engagements and keep relationships intact is to step back and get some perspective… to call on my “higher self” and put my ego into “sleep mode.”
Below is a list of Inspired Project Teams posts and podcasts that can help you step back and get into your philosopher or amateur therapist frame of mind before your next holiday get-together.