How to survive holiday parties

The Counseling Corner - by The American Counseling Association

The holiday season leaves many people feeling anxious as they face holiday office parties and social events they rather would avoid. Thats understandable. While such events can be a great time to socialize with relatives, friends and co-workers, they also can lead to disaster.
Weve all heard of, or experienced, the office party where someone did permanent damage to his or her reputation. Or that family gathering where Uncle Louie had one drink too many and decided to tell everyone what he really thought of them.
If upcoming holiday celebrations have you feeling tense and seriously considering not attending, here are some suggestions to help make such events less stressful and more enjoyable.
Do go. Whether its an office party, a family gathering or a neighborhood get together, its good for you and your reputation to make an appearance. At the very least, show up early in the party, stay for short time, and then thank your host and leave. Thats better than being a no-show and you just might enjoy yourself and want to stay.
Skip the alcohol. Even one or two alcoholic drinks can affect your judgment, and poor judgment leads to most party disasters. Stick to juice or soft drinks and youll lessen your chances of looking foolish or saying the wrong thing.
Plan ahead. Find out how others will dress and youll feel less anxious about how youre dressing. If there will be gift giving, check out what gifts and dollar values are appropriate. Dont do gag gifts that will be embarrassing or risque.
Avoid being critical. Negative comments at a party always get repeated later to all the wrong people. Venting frustrations at office parties almost always produces negative results.
Mind your manners. Dont overeat at the buffet table. Do remember to thank your host.
Avoid problem people. If you and a co-worker always clash, instead spend time with people you enjoy. If a relative always argues with you, simply refuse to respond and excuse yourself politely.
Theres no reason to fear or avoid the holiday party. It can and should be an enjoyable event, even when you feel required to attend. Just plan on staying sober and being polite and sociable, and you may just find it a pleasant experience.

The Counseling Corner is provided as a public service by the American Counseling Association, the nations largest organization of counseling professionals. Learn more about the counseling profession at the ACA Web site,

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