6 Exit Strategies for Uncomfortable Holiday Situations

by Thaddeus Camlin, Psy.D.

image of goldfish jumping out of bowl to illustrate leaving difficult holiday eventsIt’s the most wonderful time of year…  for some.  For others, the holidays present challenges.  Navigating difficult family members, work events, and beverage-laden holiday parties while successfully self-regulating or abstaining from alcohol can render celebratory festivities a skosh toilsome.  Here are some exit strategies to help navigate uncomfortable holiday situations.

1. Identify Your Reason to Leave Ahead of Time.

You know Topher from marketing is going to hound you all night to have a drink (or 10) with him, and you know you don’t want to play Robin to Topher’s Batman in the tales of misadventure that the entire company laughs and cringes about on the Monday after the holiday party.  After the main events end you’re more likely to make a clean getaway if you’ve crafted a crisp sentence or two about how your babysitter has to leave early, nobody made it home to walk the dogs yet, or you have a teleconference meeting at the crack of dawn the next day.  Say goodbye early with your solid reason to leave and let the party’s dark knight of holiday humiliations roll solo.

2. Avoid them Entirely.

You probably already have a good idea of which holiday gatherings will present the most challenges.  Scratch the gatherings that will be the most difficult off your holiday event schedule.  You may feel obligated to endure the heroic dose of food-pushing, unusable clearance rack gifts, and awkward conversations about canine medical complications that would tempt even the most ascetic saint to take a few sips of spiked cider at your step-grandmother’s holiday gathering, but don’t let an unwarranted sense of guilt push you into situations that compromise your own well-being.

3. Irish Goodbye.

When in doubt, quietly slip out.  If Uncle McJudgerson is laying the shame on thick because you haven’t definitively defined the ultimate meaning of life like he had when he was your age, if Aunt Uppity is telling you all about how your cousin got a 1600 on her SATs and that Harvard is going to pay her $100,000 a year to study there, and the eggnog beckons to bequeath welcomed relief upon you, don’t hesitate to skip your swan song and simply leave the party quietly through the back door without anybody noticing.  Better to deal with an unannounced departure the next day than a drunken diatribe denouncing the entire family.

4. Set the Stage for Your Early Exit.

Greetings, salutations, salud, cheers, oh by the way, I can only stay for a little while, I have to pick up dinner for the family, they’re waiting on me, but I really wanted to make sure I made it to see everyone.  Priming the party of your premature sayonara saves much of the guilt trips and hard sells for more wells as you depart.  When your early exit is not a surprise you’ll have a much smoother round of goodbyes.

5. Your Date is Your Excuse.

Clear it with your companion ahead of time, but when it’s not your fault that you have to go, your having to go goes much better.  If your date isn’t feeling well, has another obligation, has to work early, has to do anything but stay at the party, you’re off the hook.  Again, plan this with your partner in crime ahead of time so it’s a team effort rather than an unanticipated blame game.  Nobody likes to feel used.  Blindsiding a date as your excuse to leave a holiday gathering early can do more harm than good, so make sure you’re on the same page ahead of time.

6. Listen to Yourself.

If you don’t pay attention to your internal experience, you might miss the blatant messages that it’s time to bow out.  If you are listening, you will let yourself know when the time to call it a night is at hand.  You are the expert on you, not Bronson the bro-in-law who believes budweisers are the building blocks of beatitude.

Navigating the holiday season effectively requires some preparation for some people.  With the above exit strategies for uncomfortable holiday situations, you have some techniques to get out ahead of disappointing results.

If you or a loved one could use a little help navigating a difficult holiday season, please give us a call. We’re here to help.