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By Lauren M.G. Burt, correspondent
After my last column, it may be obvious that I love the holiday season and believe the spirit of the holidays should be carried throughout the year. Yet, while the cheer should be fun, it can also be stressful and create awkward social situations with all the parties, gifts and overall expectations for a 'perfect” holiday season experience.
Blessed are those with many friends and social opportunities. But overscheduling yourself during the holidays will only make things worse. Commit to events that are important to you. And when you do RSVP, don't back out of one holiday party to attend another. Not only is that bad form but with social media, people will know you weren't really home sick but at someone else's party. If you have multiple engagements in one evening, tell the host ahead of time and try to spend equal amounts of time at each event.
When you make your way to the work holiday party, know your audience and ease up on the alcohol. Bad behavior at the company party can haunt you year-round, so beware of the spiked eggnog or the over-personal co-worker. If you're taking a date to the party, fill them in on your workplace dynamics and they should also practice restraint with the cocktails. Some workplaces have theme parties that call for certain attire. Even if costumes are encouraged, err on the side of caution and keep it fun, yet appropriate.
Outside of the work parties, socializing with friends and family is one of the best parts of the season. But when your Grandma won't stop asking about your love life or your party date proceeds to demonstrate their drinking skills reminiscent of college days, social situations become a strain. Fielding the awkward questions about work, love life, salary or weight is emotionally draining. I've found myself caught in those tough spots more often than I care to admit. When those sticky questions arise, I smile and with a positive tone, say, 'Why do you ask?” That usually stops an awkward conversation dead in its tracks.
With all things etiquette, the thought is what counts. When it comes to gifts, the same is true but even with the best intentions, someone may dislike a gift or be disappointed. To avoid those situations, have clear conversations about budget and expectations. As a gift giver, never feel bad about your budget or effort. Making smart financial decisions during the holidays is important. And someone who loves you doesn't want you to go into debt for a present under the tree.
Be gentle and realistic with yourself during the holidays. Set priorities that are important to you. If a long-standing tradition is more stressful than joyful, do something different. You don't have to bake the perfect cookies, make your Christmas tree look like a Pinterest photo or have expensive gifts for every night of Hanukkah. Forget the perfection and demands. Take time this season to practice gratitude, thankfulness and share some holiday cheer in the form of kindness and celebrate those around you to make the season bright.
' Lauren M.G. Burt is a communications professional and etiquette adviser based in the Midwest. She believes in the importance of embracing etiquette and a return to civility. Contact her with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.