Holidays can be a sweet spot, or can easily go sour when we bring the family together.

David Cunningham is senior program leader for Landmark, a world-renowned personal and professional growth, training and development company. His focus is on communication.

“We gather at the holidays to celebrate together, to relive happy times past, renew old relationships and catch up with people we haven’t seen in a while,” Cunningham says. “This is also the time of year that we’re more likely to see people we might otherwise avoid due to relationships strained from past problems.”

What should you say in that situation? Or would you rather just avoid the person?

Here are a few tips that can help us renew rather than react to past relationships:

  1. Understand the relationship between language, emotions and our interpretations of events.
  2. Distinguish what is being said from your interpretations.
  3. Know yourself by remembering that the way other people treat you — or treated you in the past — does not determine your self-worth. Distinguish who you are at the core of your being from your experiences, and live in that “domain of being.”
  4. Discover unrealized potential. Consider that language can be used not just to discuss the world around us, but also to create new possibilities and relationships.