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A Guide to Dealing with People You Don't Like During the Holiday Season

My friend Tamara hates the holidays. She dreads the long meals with her mother-in-law who is judgmental and very critical. She claims her husband doesn’t stand up for her and her teenage kids and she hates the way he regress to a submissive state when his mother is around. He says it's not worth it and his mom will never change. They only see her a few times a year but the issue has become a source of anxiety even weeks before the holidays. Here are some strategies to help you navigate the holiday season with grace and maintain your own peace of mind.

1.     Choose Your Battles

Not every disagreement needs to be addressed. During the holidays, prioritize harmony over proving a point. If someone's behavior or comments irk you, consider whether it's worth engaging in a potentially heated discussion. Sometimes, letting things slide can contribute to a more enjoyable and stress-free gathering. In Tamara's case, she could choose to reframe the comments her mother-in-law makes and don't give her so much power over her own thoughts and wellbeing.

2.     Practice Empathy

Try to understand where the other person is coming from. Everyone has their own struggles and challenges, and the holiday season may be particularly difficult for them. By putting yourself in their shoes, you may find it easier to let go of personal grievances and approach interactions with more compassion.

This is a hard one for Tamara, but she could see how her mother-in-law comes from a family where there wasn's a lot of positivity and she sees how hard it is for her to see the positive in people.

3.     Establish Clear Boundaries

Set clear boundaries to protect your own well-being. Politely but firmly communicate what topics are off-limits or behaviors you find unacceptable. This can help create a more comfortable environment and prevent potential conflicts.

If Tamara thinks her mother-in-law is being disrespectful, she should bring it up in a nice way, so she understands when she is being mean.

4.     Seek Common Ground

Focus on shared interests or common ground when engaging with people you don't particularly like. Whether it's a shared hobby, a love of food, or a favorite holiday tradition, finding commonalities can create a more positive atmosphere and shift the focus away from potential disagreements.

Tamara and her mother-in-law both have a strong sense of family and shared values, she needs to focus on that instead of ruminating about the comments.

5.     Limit Interaction Time

You don't have to spend the entire holiday event with someone you find challenging. Strategically plan your interactions to minimize stress. Seek out other friends or family members, and give yourself breaks when needed. Remember, it's okay to prioritize your own well-being.

Tamara can take mini-breaks and get some "me time" by going to her room or taking the dogs for a walk.

6.     Cultivate a Positive Mindset

Instead of dwelling on what you don't like about a person, actively focus on the positive aspects of the holiday season. Engage in activities that bring you joy and consciously redirect your thoughts away from negativity. A positive mindset can help you navigate challenging situations with resilience.

Tamara could reconnect with the part of her that used to love the holidays instead of dwelling on the negatives.

7.     Practice Gratitude

Embrace the spirit of gratitude during the holidays. Reflect on the positive aspects of your life and the meaningful connections you have. Shifting your focus to gratitude can foster a sense of contentment, making it easier to navigate interactions with those you find challenging.

This part of fundamental to have a nice happy experience. Gratitude is the antidote to resentment and negativity.


The holiday season could be a time for joy, connection, and reflection. While dealing with people you don't like can be challenging, approaching these interactions with empathy, boundaries, and a positive mindset can make the experience more bearable. Remember, it's okay to prioritize your own well-being and focus on the aspects of the season that bring you joy. Wishing you a happy and harmonious holiday season!

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