Revisit tips for the holidays: people skills

For some years I posted some tips for coping with the holidays every year and then I drifted away from it. Thought I’d re-issue one with some links to others:

dont beat drum quote

Every year at this time I post about a teaching from Kahuna teacher Serge King that has had an enormous impact on my life.  Serge likes to keep it short and simple, so the basic principle is:  “People are who they are and they do what they do.

I believe that if everyone in the world learned this one and lived by it, peace would soon follow.  As with many of his seemingly simple teachings, if you started exploring this one you’ll find it has tremendous depth.

The greatest source of disappointment, frustration, and anger toward others arises from having your own agenda/expectations about who you want them to be and how you want them to act/what you want them to do..The deep reality is that people are who they are and they are going to do what they do based on who they are.  You can wish or will others to be somebody else as much you want.  You may even occasionally manipulate someone into doing something that’s not what they want.  But in the long run no one can be anyone other than who they are.

Your best defense, if you want to avoid being disappointed or upset by others, is to know them well enough to know who they are.  Know what they do.  Expect them to be who they are and do what they do.  You’ll never be surprised by anyone’s behavior if you really know them.

And then realize who they are and what they do isn’t about you.  Pretty much ever; even when someone attacks you, the attack has everything to do with who they are and nothing to do with you.  So Don Miguel Ruiz’s advice, “Don’t take anything personally”, fits very well with this teaching.  People are busy being who they are and doing what they do and none of it has anything to do with you.  So don’t take it personally.

Is Aunt Murgatroyd going to tell unfunny jokes at the annual gathering, as always?  Of course she is.  It’s who she is and what she does.  Is your cousin Snagglepuss going to bore everyone AGAIN with stories of his really dull job?  You bet.  Who he is, what he does.  Is your overly protective dad going to criticize you like he always does?  If his way of showing care is to fret and pick apart anything that doesn’t fit his view, then yup.  Gonna do it.  If he’s an unhappy guy who criticizes to express his dissatisfaction with the world, that’s who he is…  gotta figure he’s gonna do it.

If you walk in with a chip on your shoulder because you know the irritating behavior(s) are going to arise but you’re secretly hoping it will be different, you’re going to get what you’re expecting:  unhappiness and dejection.  A lot of times we enter these situations knowing what they’ll do and expecting to be angry because of it.  And you’ll pretty much get what you’re expecting — ongoing cycles of them being who they are and you being angry.

If you expect anyone to do anything other than what s/he does, you’re doomed to disappointment.  When you can walk in knowing they’ll all be there being themselves and doing what they do, you’ll get what you knew you would.  Know that nothing they do is about hurting, irritating, upsetting or disappointing you.  They’re just being themselves.

When you can step aside from the behavior, know that it’s about them and not you, and stay centered, you can defuse most of the emotional turmoil that can make the holidays stressful.

The question we’ll explore in the next post is:  can you love them anyway?

Love Them Anyway


Recognizing Love When It is Offered

Peace and love in the holiday season


We went out a few nights ago to meander through an area that always decorates abundantly for the holidays.  There were too many cars to stop very often but I managed to catch the one above.

Always love the lights!

Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year I hope you’re finding joy, peace and lovingkindness!  For those who observe Christmas, Merry Christmas!



Love the ones you’re with

Decorated Christmas tree in snowy field on Microsoft Office Clipart

Unlike the old Stephen Stills song, I actually mean LOVE the ones you’re with as the third entry in my series for the holidays about finding ease as you gather with family and friends. For the sake of making an entry in Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday after being MIA for quite some time, let’s think of it as DECEMBER holidays advice since the letter this week is “D”. In the first two posts I talked about how “people are who they are and they do what they do” and about recognizing love the way it’s offered instead of waiting for it to arrive the way you wish.

Once you know who someone is and know how that person shows love you’ve come a long way. But I think the next step is to know who someone is and how s(he) loves and then decide: can you love him anyway? I began asking myself that after being involved for many years in conversations with unhappy spouses who complained incessantly about their mates—and I was around enough to know that the bitter recriminations went on daily in their households.

The complaints were not unreasonable and for a long time I agreed, “Yes, that’s bad, blah, blah…” But as I moved along this path I began to put myself in the shoes of the “bad guy” and ask myself, “What must it be like to be married to someone who tells you every day you’re not enough, you’re wrong, you’re annoying…”? (I learned the hard way not to ask that one out loud…) And I wondered what might change or how the marriages might work if the complaining party decided to just love the one she or he was with instead of wishing for the partner to be someone else. It seems to me that if you really know who your loved ones are and what they do and you know how they show love then your choice is either to accept and love the person you’ve got or to leave and try for someone who meets your expectations.

Some of my teachers feel that finding the way to love and accept your family members is the highest spiritual calling and that when you can find your way to staying in a space of love with your most difficult relationship(s) you can hold that space for everyone. I’m somewhere on the road with that lesson.

It’s helped me to see that when I’m irritated by someone it’s usually really some issue of mine that’s leading to the irritation; other people rarely make a point of trying to annoy, they just unwittingly press your hot buttons. [Unless you’ve got a mean one like my late aunt (see previous post) who loves to stick an ice pick in your ribs, in which case I think the “don’t take anything personally” advice applies. And then try for the love. Well, you know, as best you can.]

When I hear people dreading the holidays because they’ll have to hang out with family members they don’t get along with I find myself thinking “figure out who they are and what they do and how they love and then try to just love them”. Of course my family is tiny and I don’t actually see anyone for the holidays whom I don’t see otherwise. But I have occasion to practice most of the year and I’m finding that it’s pretty easy for me to figure out who they are and what they do and to understand that a lot of criticism and unsolicited advice is their way of loving but I’m finding it harder to hold that space of lovingkindness. When I do, though, we get along much better. Just trying helps. So my unsolicited advice for the holidays is, just try to love the ones you’re with… for (in spite of?) who they are and what they do.