Being around people that you may not see eye to eye with can be difficult. Even more difficult when you are forced to interact with that one person you do not agree with. The holidays are upon us, and I wanted to write a special piece “on how to get along with others during the holidays.”

Getting along with others starts with self-awareness.

I want you to visualize yourself starring at a mirror. Describe yourself.

What type of person are you?

Focus on your self-confidence, self-esteem, personal values, morals and ethics. Visualize a concrete interpretation of yourself.

Now that you have this picture in mind. I want you to consider how to utilize your self-awareness to get along with others during the holidays.

Consider topics of the election or even past conflict within the family.

When we are placed in tense situations, what tends to happen is that our emotions escalate. We internally struggle to manage the anger, sadness, or even anxiety. The emotions that are not managed, often lead to a negative external reaction. This simply means we lose control.

During the month of December, you are probably going to be sitting across the table from some people who may or may not have the same view point as you. The individuals that have opposing views or those who you have experienced negative altercations with may be a trigger.

A trigger is simply someone or something that makes it extremely difficult for you to control yourself. Consider a past event in which you kind of “lost it.” An event in which you “flipped out.” If you focus hard enough, you should be able to reflect and find the trigger.

Before you decide to drive over to the in-laws or to the feast. I want to encourage you to spend time practicing self-awareness and the exercises listed below. The goal of self-awareness and the exercises are simply to allow you to have a positive experience this holiday season.

Allow yourself to acknowledge that “others do not control you.”

Others may provoke you. Or even be a pain in your rear end. But they do not control you.

Control comes from within.

  1. This may sound odd. I want you to sketch out the location of your upcoming get-together. Literally draw out or even mentally picture the layout. Focus on exits and restrooms. These will be your locations to-go-to when things get overly heated. Basically, when you feel that you are about to lose it and say something over the top. At this moment, or hopefully before it, make your way to the restroom or exit the house.
  2. Parking must be planned. Consider driving to the location prior to the event. Park somewhere that you can easily leave from. Do not allow yourself to be blocked in by others! It doesn’t matter if you must park two blocks down the road. Do it!
  3. Create two to three alternative escape plans. When doing so be creative and strategic. Below are a few examples you are welcome to use
    – If you have a child, utilize them. Dirty diaper.
    – Create an alarm on your phone that sounds like a ring tone. Pretend to answer the phone and boom that’s your escape plan saying that “it’s time to go to the next feast.”
    – Did you leave something in the car? Why, yes. At your car, take some time to breathe and refocus before reentering.
  4. Visualize all the people that will be at the event. Focus on the ones that you best get along with versus those that will more than likely be a trigger. Plan to stick to the people you best get along with.
  5. Visualize the people who are triggers and consider what their personal interest or hobbies might be. At any time in which the person tries to engage in a sensitive topic such as politics, quickly transition to personal interests or hobbies.
  6. Utilize the food when needed. If you find yourself stuck and out of luck, go for seconds. While you are getting seconds, scan the area for your support system or for an escape route.

The holidays are meant to be beautiful moments surrounded by family, friends and those you love and care about. Allow yourself to spend some time reviewing the information above. Plan accordingly and do not allow others to push your buttons. You can be in control this holiday season.


Juan Santos is a professional counselor, husband, father of two, and published author of “100 Ways to Remain Emotionally Connected” and “Life Without Stress.”