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Spreading Holiday Cheer
This year, do something special for someone you donít know and wind up on Santa's "Nice" list.

Get on Santa's "nice" list this year by doing something good for a stranger.

The holidays are here, and we all know what that means: malls, freeways, and businesses filled with busy, stressed-out people! How can you keep your cool amidst all the chaos?

First, remember that every contact is a relationship. Whether youíre driving in holiday traffic or dashing through the mall in search of the perfect gift, you have a relationship with everyone you meet. How you choose to conduct yourself in those situations will determine the amount of personal balance youíll have in your life; and your level of balance determines the quality of your most important relationships. If you drive down the freeway screaming, "Get out of my way!" or if you verbally abuse waiters, waitresses, and store clerks, itís going to be very difficult for you to go home at the end of the day and have a successful, intimate relationship with your spouse or partner.

Whether youíre a customer, service provider or someone whoís just out and about, try these three tips to maintain balance during the holidays.

* Acknowledge people in the service industries. Perhaps youíve unconsciously developed the bad habit of failing to acknowledge people in the service business. This holiday season, why not go out of your way to say hello to hotel clerks and cleaning people, flight attendants, restaurant bussers, garbage collectors, gardeners . . . who have I left out here, and who have you left out over the years?

* Defuse complaining customers. If you are a service provider, youíll probably face at least one tired, frazzled customer during the holidays. The easiest way to defuse irate customers is to let them vent and then say, "Iím so sorry you were inconvenienced. What wonderful thing could I do to make you happy?" I once had an awful flying experience where a three-hour flight turned into a 14-hour, multiple-city, exhausting nightmare. At 3 a.m. by the time I was finally within 30 minutes of landing at my destination airport, I suddenly smelled something wonderful: the flight attendants were baking chocolate chip cookies! As the flight attendants handed each passenger a warm cookie, I instantly abandoned my plans for an enraged letter-writing campaign and was effortlessly defused of my anger and exhaustion.

* Be nice to strangers. Several years ago, my friend Debra went to pay the toll for the San Francisco Bay Bridge and she received a pleasant surpriseóthe truck driver ahead of her had paid the toll for her. Touched by his unconditional generosity, Debra adopted the behavior as her own: every time she crosses the bridge, she pays the toll for the person behind her. When my "nice factor" is low and I want to give it a boost, youíll find me frantically looking for a toll road somewhere. Try it during this holiday season. It works every time.

Remember that every person you come in contact with is a relationship that requires your commitment. If you want a better relationship at home, practice these tips during the busy holidays. Who knows? It just might keep you off the "naughty" list this year!

Winn Claybaugh is the author of Be Nice (Or Else!) and "one of the best motivational speakers in the country," according to CNNís Larry King. A business owner for over 25 years with over 8,000 people in his organization, Winn is the co-owner of hair care giant Paul Mitchellís school division. Winn is a frequent guest on national radio and a regular contributor to online publications. Visit www.BeNiceOrElse.com to sign up for his free monthly Be Nice (Or Else!) newsletter.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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