Old Habits Really Do Die Hard!

In prepping for this week, I reread last Thanksgiving’s column and was shocked because this year I did exactly what I encouraged you NOT to do last year! Here’s an excerpt from that column:

“What should you do with the relatives that drive you batty? Change. Change the way you deal with them because, if you don’t change, and they’re not going to change, then nothing is going to change and the 2012 holidays will again end up being from hell!

“Here’s what to do. First think about who’s on your ‘naughty’ list. How do they press your buttons? Why do they have the ability to press those buttons? Once you’re aware of what they’re doing, then you can decide if you’re going to allow them to upset you.”

Although I stick by what I wrote, it’s harder to do than my cheery tone might imply! This year I went to John and Mary’s for dessert (names changed). John’s parents were at the table when I arrived. I’ve known them for many years and while they’re more socially and theologically conservative than I am, we’ve had a mutual affection.

As soon as I sat down, John’s mom made a statement that centered on the two things you shouldn’t bring up at a holiday meal – religion and politics. What she said was factually incorrect and I instantaneously became irritated. My answer was snappish, though I pulled back (I think) in time before turning into a rude guest. John’s mom had a sarcastic comeback and I upped it! We both knew what had happened and we backed off.

I’m embarrassed that I snapped. I teach, write, and speak about dealing with difficult people and in the heat of that moment, none of it meant anything. I’m humbly reminded that, truly, old habits die hard.

Why did I care what this woman blathered on about? Well, she was wrong and I was “right” and here’s what went through my brain at lightning speed: “I think you’re being stupid and therefore I’m going to fix you – at the dinner table – and I better do it quickly because I only see you once a year.” With that kind of thinking, who’s the “stupid” one?!

Truth be told, what I’m really annoyed about is that I’m not perfect and I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. I don’t want to be the smug guy who’s snappish with little old ladies who love Limbaugh!

Here’s the thing – if you know you’re going to be spending time over the holidays with people who can push your buttons, be mindful of who you want to be and how you want to behave.

We always have a choice.

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