It’s the Holiday Season. A time for bright lights, Christmas music and, for many, Holiday gatherings. Holiday parties are the time of year when we gather with people we may not have seen since last Christmas. In addition to the sensory overload and rushed schedule, if you have an expectation that you should always be “merry and bright” this time of year, you may feel more trepidation than delight when faced with upcoming social gatherings.

It’s highly probable that, throughout the course of Holiday gatherings, you may run into someone you don’t particularly enjoy being around this Season. Barring any form of abuse (emotional or otherwise), perhaps you recognize that gathering together is more important than the temporary discomfort brought on by one or two people. You take a deep breath and choose to attend these gatherings anyway, but feel nervous about your potential interactions with a particular person. So what can you do to keep your peace in those situations? Here are 3 simple tips to help you face Christmas gatherings without losing your peace:

  1. Prepare yourself. We all know the feeling a certain individual elicits in us, but how many times do we stop and consider why? A few days before your gathering, take a few moments to get quiet and perhaps pray about what it is that specifically irks you about this individual. Before you start listing off their bad traits, flip this script from the start by considering what emotion you FEEL as a result of their behavior. Is it powerless? Defeated? Disrespected? Take some time to walk yourself through the last time you encountered this person and what happened. See if you could interject a new twist into the storyline for this time: setting a boundary where there wasn’t one, removing yourself from the table instead of engaging in the argument, choosing to offer the most positive explanation for their behavior instead of worst-case intention. We oftentimes judge others by their behavior but expect them to judge us by our intentions. Try assuming positive (or at least neutral) intent in the off-handed comments they throw at you. We’re all trying to find our worth in different ways, perhaps interjecting unwanted advice is their way of being helpful.
  2. Choose to zoom out and see the good. There was one particular year when I was constantly in a group of people where one individual simply drove me nuts! I avoided her if possible but then realized I needed to face into why she was triggering me in this way. I also needed to re-frame the narrative I’d created about her in my mind. So I called a mutual friend who’d known her for decades and said, “I need you to tell me all the GOOD things about this person. I need to see and hear the good.” After that, I let myself internalize those traits about her. I began to look for them in her behaviors instead of just seeing what I perceived as pettiness or drama. Even though I don’t regularly choose to hang out with this person, I don’t actively avoid her anymore and I have much compassion and even respect for the way she lives her life.
  3. Remind yourself you don’t have to agree with someone to love them as a human being. There is not one person who is irredeemable. God created every single one of us, and He has a really beautiful plan for each of those people who annoy you. If you can pray to see them as He does, your eyes may just be opened a bit. If you’re not a spiritual person, try picturing them as a child. That cranky old relative was once a sweet baby or precocious toddler. Life may have hardened them (and they may have chosen to stay that way), but having compassion for their inner child can soften your heart toward them and remove any self-imposed pressure to fix them.

These tips can work beyond the Holiday season. We will encounter people who frustrate us throughout our lifetime. Each one offers us the gift of growth if we take the time to learn why we’ve given them the power to alter our mood. We can’t change them, but we can allow them to mold us into more patient, kind and caring individuals. In essence, we have the opportunity every day to change our perspective of others from annoyance to acceptance — simply by how we choose to think about them.