Four Holiday Actions from Hijacks to Happiness: How to have an Emotionally Intelligent Holiday

In the last blog, Holiday Hysteria and Hijacks, I shared four ways we get hijacked during the holidays. So not to leave you with the bad news only here are four actions or strategies you can use to have a happier holiday and get REAL, using this as our acronym. You can obviously do these strategies in non-holiday situations also.

1.    Realistic Expectations:

One strategy for you is to be very specific about one goal for each of your most important people. This way you can be off autopilot and have at least one clear objective to accomplish with key people. So think of each person, what is something you want to say or do from your heart to or with this person. It could be an unexpressed emotion, a sentiment, long walk or something that needs closure between you and them.

So take some time to write down one goal for each of your key family members, good friends and for yourself. Remember the way to change your brain is with conscious attention and focus. Examples from my life are:

  • My father: What great role model you have been in leadership and generosity.
  • My wife: Your strength and determination has been inspiring.
  • My sister: Your warmth, perspective and attitude are contagious.
  • My brother: Your compassion and playfulness helps me stay in the moment.
  • My kids: How proud I am of your passions and the great relationships you have.
  • Me: I want to be fully present with others and breathe in the moments with them.

This can help you stay focused and can feel good about having quality moments with these people despite whatever chaos is going on. Psychologists call this a “pre-commitment” and will help achieve meaningful moments.

 2.    Experience the moment, Enhance your focus and empathy

Can you stay present and really be with people? This is an opportunity to practice your mindfulness and enjoy the moments. One sure way for you to feel connected to others and them to you is to be an outstanding listener.  Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People habit five is Seek to Understand before You are Understood.

Dr. Shelly Gable promotes using Active Constructive listening, where you celebrate and inquire about people successes: For example when someone shares what they did or are excited about:

 “That is great; tell me more about how you made that happen or what skills or capabilities did it take? What is the next step for you with that? You must feel very proud, tell me more about it.”

Here Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, explains it more below.  Can you practice this type of listening more with your significant people?

I teach my executive coaching clients that no one knows you SEE their perspective till you SAY their perspective.

So before you are meeting people take 5 minutes to set your course on how you want to be with them, what is your goal and short visualizations of being that way with them as your preparation.

3.  Accept and Let Go skills                                    

Another strategy that will help to go from hijack to happiness is to accept the situation and people as they are. We all make snap judgments and often attribute intent to someone’s behavior. They meant to be mean or critical. In reality many people are just unaware of how their comments can be hurtful and mean.

Typically they didn’t mean it that way. Can you try giving someone the benefit of the doubt till get you more information of their intent.

Can you suspend your first judgment and come up 2-3 other interpretations of the situation or the person. Each one will usually be more constructive and accurate. The more you suspend your judgments till you have more information or proof the better you will feel. Words like “trust, respect, always, never” can you get you stuck in all or nothing thinking when you hear them.

Questions like the one below can help you refocus and let go:

  • Am I 100% sure that was their intention?
  • Could I be wrong with this interpretation?
  • What else could be going on for them?
  • How do I let my reaction go until I get more information?
  • What can I say to inquire more without sounding defensive?

Accept, move forward, let go and redirect quicker.

So the goal is to accept and move forward or redirect your thoughts and feeling versus staying on automatic and looking for conforming evidence to your judgments or poor assumptions.

Your ability to accept and let go of these troubling emotions and thoughts can build your resilience muscle and refocus on being mindful.

4.  Love and Learn

Another holiday action to happiness includes truly thinking ahead of time of the compassion and love you have for each of your family members and others.

When we stay automatic it is easy to focus on what is wrong versus what is right. I tell leaders that the manager’s default is to find fault, just as parent’s default is to find fault. So part of your realistic expectations above is to share what you love, admire and are impressed with for your special people.

So at this time of more conscious generosity, when you share your compassion and love for them they not only feel better but so do you.

Research tells us that when patients in a hospital are treated with kindness from the hospital staff-- it can lead to the following outcomes:

• faster healing of wounds,
• reduced pain,
• reduced anxiety,
• reduced blood pressure,
• and shorter hospital stays.

Think about how your effortful kindness can make your loved ones feel? This can be your gift to them that keeps giving during the holidays. Also what we know from research about happy people is:

  • Their income is 7% higher
  • They have 10 % fewer stress related illnesses
  • There is an increase in wellbeing and they are more resilient to trauma
  • Their positive emotions adds 7 years to your life

Here are some additional ways to increase the love and happiness for others in your life and yourself.


  1. Work on your 3:1 positive to negative ratio with others.
  2. Write 3 things each day that you are grateful for which not only lets you feel better but increases your focus to find other things you are grateful for.
  3. Catch yourself when on your case and redirect it to be on your side – practice this kindness and compassion with yourself.
  4. Each day try to take one risk that may be a small stretch for you.
  5. Take each of your interactions to learn more about the other person or yourself. When you challenge yourself to learn something from each experience it activates your pre-frontal cortex and lessens your emotional reactions.

So use these strategies to leave the hysteria and hijacks that can come from being on autopilot and to get REAL about holidays?

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