How To Survive Thanksgiving Dinner with Difficult People

counseling lancaster pa

Anyone else praying that no one talks about politics at the Thanksgiving table, especially after this year’s election season?

Maybe in past years the scene went like this… one of your relatives had a little bit too much to drink and starts an argument with someone else about a controversial topic. You wish you could disappear into the wall while Aunt Betty and Uncle Fred duke it out. Or, worse, it’s your spouse who’s involved.

How Difficult People Can Affect You

Difficult people may be confrontational with others or want things done their way, even when they are a guest at someone else’s home. They may make comments that make you feel bad about yourself or guilty. “Why has it been so long since we’ve seen you?” is one that comes to mind.

This time of year, I’m talking with many clients about how they feel about interacting over the holidays with family they may not see that often. For someone who is already struggling anxiety or depression, Thanksgiving dinner can compound those issues, especially if relationship problems are already a factor.

Now instead of Thanksgiving being an enjoyable holiday we are filled with anxiety, dread or sadness in anticipation of this week. If this sounds familiar to you there are things you can do to hopefully make your Thanksgiving dinner go a little better this year.

Here Are Three Tips For Dealing with a Difficult Person

  1. Give the difficult person a job to do and let them do it their way. Sometimes difficult people want to take over because they want to feel useful and feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. For example, let Aunt Betty help make part of the meal and let her do it however she wants. She will be less likely to stir up trouble if she is busy.
  2. Practice self-care. Make sure you aren’t hungry, tired, emotionally spent, or otherwise not feeling up to interacting with difficult people. For example, you will be less likely to get angry if you got enough sleep the night before.
  3. Accept that you can’t change the difficult person. If you are always wishing that person was different you will likely be tense and judgmental when you are around them. You will relax if you can be more open to realizing they will probably never live up to your expectations or the fantasy in your mind of how you would like them to be.

If your Thanksgiving dinner isn’t free from difficult people, I hope you can use these tips to help you have a better holiday.

Avatar

Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC

Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: alison@moveforwardlancaster.com.