While these sound so simple -- and they are -- I'm always amazed at how many times they've come to my rescue. When that comment is made around the dinner table that you just know is directed at you, you have a choice to let it roll off your back or to engage in a heated discussion. It can then become a battle of standing your ground or caving in.
Here's the deal. When we recognize it's a choice, that frees us from the bonds of captivity in these situations. When I stop to think of these two principles, it often defuses these encounters. Maybe the speaker didn't direct the comment at me, and it just ended up pushing my buttons. Or, the remark wasn't intended to be critical; that's just the way I took it. And even if it was intended, I can "win" by making my own choice of how to respond -- or not.
Here's my favorite "golden rule" for stopping any argument in its tracks. It's certainly worth repeating this time of year, and it's a way to claim your ground without conceding to any point of view. It holds the space for the speaker -- and takes away the ammunition that may continue to fuel the fire.
Four magic words: "You may be right."
Think about this. You don't admit that he or she is right. You just acknowledge the possibility. Most people just want to be heard, and the stronger the reaction they get, the blusterier they get. Try this, it works wonders.
There's another noncommittal phrase that helps to create a buffer in tense situations: "I hadn't thought of it like that." Again, this doesn't mean you're caving in; it's just a neutral statement that can be a show-stopper.
Here's another tip. Plan some brief getaway maneuvers throughout these extended visits -- walk the dog, retreat to the bedroom to read something inspirational or to listen to a favorite song on your iPod, or even make more frequent trips to the bathroom. Anything that will help you get centered.
Returning to the topic of traditions, my husband, John, and I have a simple one we share every year. We pull out an old magazine cover we had laminated years ago and put it up on our mantel. The photo is a child gazing out a window at a snowy scene, and the words speak volumes:
"We wish you twinkling lights, glistening snow, the aroma of cookie smells, a child to play with, a dog to pet -- and the hope of answered prayers."
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm specializing in advertising, public relations, government relations and interactive marketing. Reader comments may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or e-mailed to livelifefu...@arnoldagency.com.