Wherever You May Be
The holiday season is upon us, and has been for a few weeks. The holidays are meant to be a time for love, and warmth, and peace, but many factors often put our peace in jeopardy. Maybe you left your holiday shopping to the last minute. Maybe you find yourself in situations where "hanger" strikes. Maybe you have a family member, friend, or colleague that disagrees on a certain topic and isn’t quiet about it. All of these things and more can rattle the peace.
Here are five ways to keep the peace, wherever you may be.
1. Plan ahead
Let’s assume for just a moment that you’ve got a decent handle on the situations that are less than peaceful for you.
Let’s say you know you get grouchy in last-minute holiday shopping situations where people are hustling and bustling, and the music is too loud. Well, then one way to keep the peace is to plan ahead, do some active risk management, and either complete your shopping early, wear noise-canceling headphones, or take some conscious effort to fortify yourself for those few moments of bustle.
Or let’s assume that getting hangry is something that causes you to lose your temper. Keep some healthy snacks nearby - in your bag or in your car, for example - so that when you notice the symptoms of hunger coming on, you can do something about it before it impacts your mood.
Or, let’s say that you know there is something about a particular conversation that always seems to cause tempers to flare, yours and theirs. Maybe practice in advance the way you’ll respond so that you demonstrate a willingness to listen or even respectfully disagree, rather than engage in a fight.
2. Step away
It is not a widely-kept secret that we can’t be in all places at the same time. If there is a situation, especially over the holiday season, that’s likely to prevent you from keeping the peace with others, ask yourself if you can simply avoid the situation. Shopping online or shopping early can prevent you from being overwhelmed at store X, Y, or Z. Planning your meals can prevent you from getting hangry in the first place. And maybe, just maybe, it would be better to avoid engaging in a conversation with that person who gets under your skin. Simply don’t put yourself in a situation where that conversation will come up.
But let’s say for a moment that you’re in a situation where keeping your own peace is harder than it is at a calm moment. Instead of escalating, as soon as you become aware that your own peace is not rock-solid, step away from the situation. Look away; walk away; clear your head for a moment; change the subject. Find a graceful way to stop adding fuel to the fire. Obviously there is some finessing that goes on here: it would be impolite to simply walk away mid-sentence, but you have the ability to control your words, and if your words can be used to redirect the conversation or excuse yourself so that you don’t disrupt the peace, that’s a great way to use them.
3. Drink some water
Shout out to Barb Ranck on this one. I thought about this every time my peace started to slip these last 18 months. When my general mood was less than peaceful - whether it’s anger, frustration, anxiety, worry, irritation, or even boredom, when I become aware of an emotion that is distracting me from having a peaceful moment, the first question I ask myself is “Am I thirsty?” It turns out a vast majority of us spend most of our lives under hydrated. If you stop for just a moment to drink a tall glass of water, a couple of benefits come out.
First, your body restores some of its hydration, which is critical to healthy coordination and brain function.
Second, the space and time that it takes to drink a glass of water is often enough time to re-center yourself and refocus your mind on something more positive.
4. Choose better
For as long as I can remember, one of my mom’s favorite sayings is “you choose your own attitude” she says it so often that she has abbreviated it as “YCYOA.”
And I think she’s right. We have so little control over anything in our lives, that choosing our attitude and choosing a good one lets us take control, in a positive way, over something. If you find yourself in a situation where a person or a set of circumstances has gotten under your skin and your temper is flaring, that’s your choice, not theirs. Choose better.
Choose not to be angry. Choose to be curious.
Choose not to assume fault. Choose to assume positive intent.
Choose not to go down the bunny trail of “I wouldn’t have done it that way.” Choose grace.
Each person has value and worth simply for who they are. Choose to seek that. Choose to see that.
5. Ask for a do-over
Sometimes, in the moment, we simply mess up. We fail to keep the peace. It happens. As soon as you recognize that is happening, do something about it. Ask for a little grace. Apologize. Say “I’m sorry, that didn’t come out the way I intended.” or “I’m sorry, I’ve responded badly. May I try again?” or “I’m sorry. That wasn’t what I meant to do or say. Can we start over?”
The idea here is to own it, acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake, apologize, and fix it. Do better.
Internally, you might be saying something like “the music was so loud I couldn’t even hear myself think,” or “I can’t even focus because I’m hungry” or “It drives me nuts that we’re having this conversation again.” The internal dialogue is useful for helping you identify it and plan for it in the future, but be careful if you share it out loud as others may hear it as excuse-making.
Whether you choose to articulate the "why" or not, by fixing it in the moment, you're increasing your chances of doing even better next time.
There you have it, a couple ideas for keeping the peace wherever you may be. How about you? What do you do to keep the peace?