We’ve all had experience with the recognition that you can’t choose your family members, but you can choose your friends. While your friends are normally people who share your worldview and interests, this isn’t always the case with family — which is why the holidays can be tough.


Here are five tips for handling difficult family members this holiday season:


1. Avoid talking about sensitive issues like politics or religion, for instance. While you may be convinced that your own ideas are the right ideas — and they very well may be — the dinner table isn’t always the best setting for sharing them. If a sensitive subject comes up and you want to share your ideas, feel free to do so, but do so gently and don’t push them upon your family members. Remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Try to steer the conversation toward things going on in your own life that can’t spark a heated debate.


2. Before speaking, take just three seconds to think about what you’re going to say. This way, you can think through the implications and potential reactions to what it is that you’ll be saying. It’s often easy for family members to misconstrue things that you say as hostile or insensitive. So just stop, pause for three seconds, and then speak.


That extra glass of wine may be tempting, but isn't always the best idea at family gatherings.

That extra glass of wine may be tempting, but isn’t always the best idea at family gatherings.

3. Physician and writer for the Huffington Post, Jamie Lauren Zimmerman, MD, reminds readers to “reconnect with intention.” Before seeing your family, think about why you’ll be visiting and what your intentions are in getting together. Even write these intentions down, if you want. Doing this will help you to remain levelheaded, even if Uncle Ralph makes a homophobic joke.


4. If things get tough, just remember the things for which you are grateful. Maybe it is grandma’s mashed potatoes or the fact that you’re in a warm house, surrounded by food and drink. Your gratitude is something that you can control, and it will be sure to boost your happiness, if things get tough.


5. Those extra glasses of wine may help your to cope with difficult family members, but try to avoid them. Excessive alcohol will add an element of impulsiveness to the dinner table, and this is something that should be avoided at a family gathering. Sure, the drinks may be free and festive, but limit yourself and stay in control.


Do you know any helpful tips for handling family members around the holiday season? Share your ideas below in the comments or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness