We all experience it – the end of year catch up with ‘that’ circle of friends or family group involving a person who will almost certainly create drama by what they say or do to you or others.

This Christmas, the potential for conflict is even higher given the range of strong opinions people have about COVID, politics and vaccinations, and the passion they have in defending them.

You probably feel yourself tensing up just thinking about the possible scenarios playing out.

Maybe you’ve considered avoiding some gatherings altogether by not turning up, but that’s not the option you want to take.

After another year of lockdowns, you want to connect and these people aren’t necessarily bad people, it’s just that their values and views are different to yours.

So, what to do?

My advice is this: Don’t be surprised; do be prepared.

Rather than expecting someone to change, hoping they don’t say or do that thing, or playing over in your mind how angry they will make you, accept that this is who they are and don’t be surprised by their actions.

Remember, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

To be clear: This isn’t about giving someone a green light to behave poorly or to say hurtful and offensive things, but it is about changing how you react to that behaviour and reducing the power it has over you. It’s about not letting someone else ruin your day.

Instead of being shocked, hurt, or offended that Uncle Bob made a comment about your weight or asked when you’re going to have babies – be prepared. Have a key message of response ready to go and use it if you need to.

It might be: “It’s Christmas, let’s leave that topic for another day” or “It’s ok to be curious about my life but it’s not ok to ask me when I’m having kids”.

You may even need to repeat this message like a broken record to firmly and politely make your point: “I appreciate you’ve got a different opinion, however as I said, I’m not going to engage in discussion about that today.”

Hold your boundaries with warmth, strength, courage and grace.

Good luck and remember – to say 2021 has been tough is an understatement. Many of us are burnt out and not at our best physically, emotionally and mentally.

If you go into social occasions expecting there will be moments when people may not behave at their best, you’ll have a much greater chance of responding well to it.



Leah Mether helps people get out of their own way with the development of soft skills (which are really hard). She is a speaker, trainer, facilitator, mentor and author of the book Soft is the New Hard: How to Communicate Effectively Under Pressure.