5 Tips to Handle Challenging People This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving’s here, and with it comes traditions and people who aren’t at the top of our thankful list. Let’s face it, even the best Thanksgiving meal itself contains foods we could all live without. Like anything having to do with giblets or gizzards or whatever other slimy things emerge from the inside of a turkey.

And the chances are, we all know some people who are like giblets. No offense, of course. But they are an acquired taste. With respect to my particular ones, I just haven’t figured out how to enjoy them yet.

It’s probably just me. Raising and interacting with children with mood disorders every day forces me to find ways to survive relate with challenging people.

Or maybe we could all use some helpful tips for how to appreciate those who challenge us most. With a pinch of intentionality, a spoonful of gratefulness and a dash of humor, giblets can become quite enjoyable indeed.

1. Be thankful for the disagreements. Two people with vastly different personal strengths will disagree on just about everything, including the nature of what they disagree about! Is he pig-headed? Be thankful he’s decisive. Is she judgmental? Be thankful she has high hopes for people. Basically, I’ve seen in my own marriage and extended family that if we re-frame the disagreements as clashing strengths, we feel less threatened and more like a detective sleuthing for the good in that pig-headed person.

2. Be thankful for the teasing or put-downs. Families can be brutal about this one. Don’t sit back and let people walk all over you, but once you’ve set a boundary or left the room, be thankful for the things they tease you about. Are you a “blabbermouth”? You may have strengths in communication. Are you “lazy”? Maybe it’s because you have strengths in analyzing and it takes a while to make a decision you feel good enacting. These “barrier labels” or put-downs you’ve most often experienced can give you a clue about your best attributes.

3. Be thankful when the teasing has a basis in reality. If we really are acting lazy (especially if it’s about something we value), we can be thankful that someone’s helped us see that, so we can get moving in that area. I’m not saying be thankful for HOW they said it, of course, (they probably don’t have strengths in communication…) but for the truth in WHAT they said.

4. Be thankful for the awkward moments. They mean you have a life you like waiting for you at home or in your day-to-day community. And that you’re comfortable there, and most-likely loved. Doesn’t mean we’re not loved by those with whom interactions are awkward, but that we’re fortunate our daily lives contain people with whom we can more easily relate. And if it’s awkward in your “real life” too, well, be thankful that there’s another painful moment to spur you toward personal development in how you interact with others.

5. Be thankful nobody else can hear what’s going through your mind. Let’s face it, none of us is perfect. While we all aspire to live honest, loving and respectful lives towards others, our thoughts sometimes need a little work in this area. But if we can discipline ourselves during this holiday season, and keep our funk to ourselves, we won’t become the fool with others. There’s a reason why misspeaking and foolishness are so often correlated. When we intentionally live according to the wisdom: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to wrath,” we propagate the grace and love of God, even when our own thoughts are wrestling within us.

And everyone, even our giblet most challenging people, can use an extra helping of that this holiday!

What helps you prepare for and handle the challenging people in your life at Thanksgiving?

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