When the holiday season rolls around, there’s a good chance you’ll have to spend time with people who do or say things that can get under your skin. Columnist Loretta LaRoche has a suggestion: Try to see what might otherwise bother you as potential sitcom material.

Every holiday season I am asked to help people navigate the stress of having to be around relatives, ex-husbands/wives or co-workers that have the ability to make you feel like you’re on trial for a crime you didn’t commit.


Most of us have not been taught to deal with individuals who have spent years getting a black belt in “tongue fu.” There are many ways to handle stressful situations, like taking a deep breath, changing the subject, or taking a time out, but I love teaching individuals how to begin to see much of what bothers them as a potential sitcom.


I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have enough strange people and relationships in their lives to make a comedy that rivals “Seinfield.”


Think about it: What are some of the quirks of people you know, and how could they be used if that person were a character in a sitcom? My mother, for example, had the ability to push every one of my buttons and drive me absolutely insane. She was never easy, and as she got older she became even more difficult.


Christmas Day was filled with ongoing criticisms. The turkey was skinny-looking. Why did I pay so much for it? The tree had branches missing! I should have waited until after Christmas to get the tree on sale. Why did I buy the kids toys? I should have saved mine and given them things that were really made well. On and on she went. One year after I had my last child she told me I looked like an egg. Well, I probably did, but I really wasn’t ready to admit it. I finally realized that the only way I was going to “roll with the punches” was to envision my mother as Estelle Getty, who portrayed the mother on “The Golden Girls.”


I found myself being more amused than irritated as I allowed myself to become a witness to her behavior. I became adept at either being her straight man or simply becoming an audience member. Many of you have the same capabilities. You just have to realize that getting upset is a choice. Once my mother saw that I was not reacting in the same way, she became less interested in getting me to react.


Give yourself the gift of laughter this season. Laugh at yourself and laugh in secret at those around you who are too serious to laugh at themselves. The only present they might need is a good laxative!


Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Mass. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360, send email to getalife@lorettalaroche.com, visit the website at www.stressed.com or call toll-free 800-99-TADAH (82324).