December 16, 2010
A Win/Win Holiday
It seems to me that people tend to display two extremes of behavior about this time of year. A good many of us, not able to deal with the increasing stress we feel preparing for the holiday blitz , wind up acting impatient, surly, and even downright rude. Often we direct these behaviors at the store clerks, restaurant staff, or even the complete strangers we encounter. I know we’ve all met some of these Christmas curmudgeons; hey, some of us are these Christmas curmudgeons.
On the other hand, there are those among us who manage to take a totally different approach to the season. It may be because we just don’t add all that much stress to our lives at Christmas times, or because we are a lot more stress hardy than the average person, but, whatever the reason, we just don’t let it get to us. If anything, we are even nicer to and more considerate of other people during the holiday season.
Now, one of the things I’ve learned as a therapist over the last thirty five years is that
we can sometimes dramatically change the way we feel by simply changing the way we behave. Or, “fake it til you make it,” as a good friend puts it. We may feel impatient, but if we act patiently it can often help us to feel less impatient. We may feel like grumbling at every clerk we encounter, but if we are polite we will actually feel less surly. We may feel like butting into traffic or cutting off a slow driver, but if we are courteous and understanding, we will feel less of a temptation to be rude.
In other words, if we act like the nicer, more considerate people in the second category I mentioned above, we can wind up even feeling like them. And, let’s face it, feeling less stress around about now has got to be a good thing.
Willing to give it a try? Then let me give you some tips on how to get started:
1) Leave large tips in restaurants, even if the service is not as good as it should be. If you have ever worked in food service at Christmas, you know how tough it is.
2) Make eye contact and smile at every checkout person, clerk, or customer service type you run in to.
3) Let people with only a few things to buy cut in line in front of you.
4) When you’re driving, give other people a break when it comes to getting out of parking spaces, out of driveways, changing lanes, etc… And give them a wave when you do it. And drive at a safe speed.
5) Treat merchandise in stores as though you are the one who is going to have to come back and straighten it up at the end of the day.
6) No matter how rude someone else is to you, be polite. If a clerk, sales person, or wait staff is so out of line that you need to talk to a manager, do so calmly and rationally.
7) Give a buck or two to any and every legitimate charity that asks for your help during the holiday season. Hunt out a few others and just donate something for the heck of it. They need the help, and it will remind you that you have a lot more than a lot of people.
You get the idea. I guarantee you that if you work on behaving in the ways I have suggested, you will feel less stress and enjoy the coming weeks more. And, not incidentally, the world will be a bit of a better place to live in because you are in it.
From Thirty Thousand Days: A Journal of Purposeful Living – Holiday 2010 Edition.
Reprinted by permission of the author. Reverend Ken Potts is a pastoral
counselor and marriage and famiy therapist with Samaritan Interfaith Counseling
Center, Naperville, Illinois. He writes a weekly column for the Daily Herald,
where this article first appeared.