Merry Christmas! For some, this time of year can be magical. But for others, it’s challenging. Each year I like to share some new insights to help you navigate the coming weeks and to remind you of those I’ve shared before. It’s my Christmas gift to you and part of my mission to help the world have better conversations and relationships!

1. Just breathe!

I’m now in India, having just finished training witnesses for a big case. Every time I train witnesses, I’m reminded of the importance of breathing in real life and under challenging circumstances. I become more and more aware of how breathing fully into the diaphragm really helps to relax our nervous system, putting us in a better frame of mind to be clear, calm and compassionate.

Buddhist philosophy suggests that when we experience "mental afflictions" (including difficult emotions and states like impatience),  we take care not to do anything. We should try not to act from a place of "mental affliction", and should simply observe. Breathing helps us do that and increases our self-awareness.

2. Take responsibility for your own feelings and set boundaries to meet your needs

By taking the space to breathe when we’re irritated or upset, we can take responsibility for those feelings rather than blaming the other person for them. It’s also important to take responsibility for our own needs by setting boundaries that will support us. This proactive, empowered approach means we’re not so reliant on other people to meet our needs. We are no longer at their mercy! We can choose how to respond.

3. Seek to understand first (note: understanding does not mean agreeing!)

Many of us will be negotiating tricky relationships over the next few weeks. I encourage you to remember the importance of understanding before seeking to be understood. When you understand another person’s viewpoint, that doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with them (more on that in the New Year). Even if we have a completely different opinion, it’s important to understand what the other person is thinking or feeling. They are very unlikely to be receptive to our opinion if we’re not receptive to theirs. 

My mission is to help the world have better conversations and interactions. If you know you’ll be in the company of people who can really push your buttons this Christmas, you might like to revisit this post from last year. In it, I share something you can try to help with difficult conversations. It will calm things down and give everyone space to feel heard and understood, so give it a try and let me know how it goes!

P.S. If you feel you might need a bit more space to recover in the New Year or are at a loss for a Christmas present, you might consider my next retreat in Morocco - you can find out more information here.