How to turn grotty exchanges into delightful connections with six simple tips
Christmas should be a time of cheer, but so often things come up that can turn us more into a Christmas scrooge. In fact sometimes the festive period can press so many buttons we feel like a lift in a skyscraper. Up and down, up and down, the tiniest trigger and we are off…
So how do we stop ourselves from being prone to Christmas frustrations and go to a jolly Yuletide spirited perspective – when we’re in a queue for Christmas gifts that moves at snail pace, when someone else grabs the last turkey the day before the big event, when the sibling or parent starts their usual argument at Christmas lunch?
Here are six top tips for moving from scrooge to Santa rouge in minutes:
Tip one: Smiling
When the going gets tough…. Smile. Smiling releases endorphins in your brain, literally sending messages throughout your neural system that you are happy. And believe it or not, within about 30 seconds of a plastered grin, you will start to feel perkier. Smiling is also a great way to connect with others, and gosh things are so much nicer when there’s good will flying around.
Tip two: Breathe
You’re in a queue and a young mother with five bags and a crying toddler asks if she can go in front of you. “No” you feel like saying, “Why don’t you queue like everyone else.” But instead, you decide to use the power of breath to channel your inner sweetness. Breathe in deeply, exhale for longer and let the irritation subside. A couple of deep breaths literally moves you from one part of your brain to another, so if you are flooded with anger at something, those five seconds of deep breathing can shift you from your reptile brain (your amygdala) to your cerebral cortex – where all that rational adult thinking takes place. So next time you feel a flood of rage, wait, breathe deeply and the rational emotions will come flooding back.
Tip three: Empathy
You finally get to the front of the queue and the check out staff is rude and curt. It’s difficult to not get annoyed back, after all you have managed to control your breathing and do something nice despite wanting to sit down and have a tantrum in the middle of the store. So now it’s ever so tempting to be rude back. However, this is where empathy is useful. Take a moment to think of what is going on for for the person who is being difficult. He’s probably had a hell of a day dealing with fraught Christmas shoppers. How nice would it be to stop and ask him how he is feeling? To listen when he tells you that he’s been going for 10 hours straight. Empathy is sometimes the most beautiful gift you can give someone, just being prepared to listen and feel for their situation, can make them feel not alone and lift their spirits in an instant. More than that, it can lift your own spirits too.
Tip four - Non-violent communication
Queue bargers and rude strangers are pretty small fry when it comes to the classic agonising family Christmas lunch. If anyone can press our buttons, it’s our siblings, parents and extended family crowded into a small space surrounded by unwanted gifts, strewn wrapping paper and indigestion. And there is always at least one who seems to have made it their mission to understand exactly how to rile you, and then prepares the perfectly aimed arrow to hit that soft spot, every time. Well this year can be different. Non-violent communication advises be an advocate of your own and the other person’s values. If a storm is brewing then you can be the weather changer with the following steps:
1) Try to understand where they are coming from. What is going on for them? What values of theirs are not being met. If you are not sure – ask them.
2) tell them what happened or what you feel they did without judgement or attack as objective as you can
3) explain how this felt and why it didn’t work for you.
4) make your request of them, a simple request, i..e could you do this next time instead.
5) make sure you offer the equivalent to them, what would they like you to do differently?
The main thing is that in an argument we always want to feel right and that the other person is wrong, but as soon as we bring right and wrong into it, we enter into a battle ground. And then the other person gets defensive or attacking. And the Christmas argument has begun. So to avoid, work the steps above, and enjoy the martyrish feeling that comes with averting a storm and letting the sunshine in.
Tip five: Mindfulness
This is similar to focusing on your breath. With mindfulness you just take yourself off for a few minutes and focus on your breathing. Let the emotions roll by, like clouds. Appreciate that your emotions are not you, and you are not them. And like clouds, they will pass. Each time you find yourself getting caught up in an emotional cloud, decide to go back to your breath, give a little nod to the cloud and let it go.
Tip six: Have some banter
You’re in that queue, or the lift, the Christmas party, or the supermarket checkout and you’re tired and kind of over it. You’re getting into feeling delightfully bah humbug about the whole Christmas extravaganza and fantasising about a last minute flight to somewhere very, very warm. Well, this is the perfect time to engage in a bit of banter.. Some chirpy exchanges with a fellow human being can be jus the tonic for any of those niggles that can drain the soul. Ask a question, make a funny comment, give a compliment, they all work. And a little bit of banter can make a queue go so much faster!