Do’s and Don’ts for a Human and Humane Holiday Experience

by Joseph Michelli

Over twenty-five years ago I used to speak about managing the stress of the holidays. Those speeches were loosely based on the book Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season. In it the authors, Jo Robinson and Jean Staeheli, essentially focused on four main themes:

  • Prioritize gift-giving to those who truly need your gifts.
  • Engage in activities (across a well-paced holiday season – not just a day) that connect with your deepest personal values.
  • Seek to be a peacemaker among friends and family.
  • Commit to spiritual growth.

Over time, I’ve come to believe we don’t need to, and quite frankly can’t “Unplug the Christmas Machine” – that machine will run even if you or I were to find a way to unplug it.

I suspect our efforts would be better spent focusing on how to create humanity-rich experiences this time of year. To that end, I offer some thoughts which I’ll lovingly call “do’s and don’ts” for the season. These thoughts are targeted in the context of both business and personal life, as they relate to each of these relationships:


Team Members

Family and Friends

Customer Do’s and Don’ts:

Do: Smile. During the holiday crunch a smile and genuine graciousness can stand out and comfort customers.

Don’t: Confuse this Customer With the Last One. When the pace picks up, it’s easy to get into a groove where people blur into “transactions.” You may be doing your 50th identical transaction of the day, but that transaction involves a person and for that person, this is likely their only interaction with you today. Honor people – their visits and their business.


Team Member Do’s and Don’ts:

Do: Drive Positive Energy. My friend Johnny Yokoyama (the owner of the Pike Place Fish Market) notes that what “shows up” in the workplace is a reflection of what the leader creates. Joyful workplaces begin with joyful, energetic, and caring leaders. There is never a more critical time for positive joyfulness than in this high-stress/high-volume period of the year.

Don’t: Get Lost in What You’re Selling. If you focus on serving your people and keeping them focused on serving others – your sales will benefit.

Family and Friends Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do: Focus on the Memorable.  With very few exceptions, the most memorable aspects of the season are not the tangible presents but the experiences shared with people we love.

Don’t: Take this Time for Granted. I used to think “next year” I will savor the holiday season more fully. Aging and unexpected life circumstances have helped me realize that we just don’t know how or if we will experience the holiday surrounded by the same people assembled this year. Since there is no rewind button, mulligan, or “do overs”, THIS IS the season to savor!

Thanks for being a part of my Michelli musings and may you have the best holiday of your life.

From my faith tradition, I wish you a Merry Christmas and extend that wish to say Happy Hanukkah and Joyous Kwanzaa!