Ah… The holidays are fast upon us. Can’t you just smell the cinnamon? Taste the pumpkin spice? Cut the family tension with a knife? If gatherings aren’t touchy enough with the average, everyday familial grudges, secrets and misunderstandings, try adding some emotional, sensational or controversial topics to the mix!

I’m sure many can attest that talking to your anti-gun friends and family members during the holidays can be very uncomfortable … and sometimes quite heated. So how can you survive the upcoming Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas celebrations or New Year’s parties? Here are five things to remember to help keep everyone safe, sane, calm and merry.

1. Plan Ahead for Gatherings

You probably know very well which people in your inner circles don’t agree with you. And you can also very likely pinpoint the ones who are willing — or hoping — to start a fight. Perhaps you can simply steer away from these antis and naysayers. Try also to limit time spent around them, especially the dreaded one-on-one chats where you may feel targeted or cornered. You can even consider (and practice) a stock answer such as, “This is a time for family and celebration; let’s focus on the enjoyment of this holiday.” You might also want to strategize various exit points wherever you may be, just in case you need a quick escape. And think through possible distractions or diversions, such as a televised football game, a delicious dessert or even some children who suddenly need adult supervision.

2. Focus on the Positive

Find ways to make conversations about general interests rather than potentially heated personal topics. Be ready to break out fun photos or redirect any stressful or negative interactions toward games, movies, food and lighthearted fun. If questions or accusations do come up, keep your cool. Consider saying things like, “I know our viewpoints differ. I don’t want to argue about this.” All in all, others might actually be more inclined to listen to you and accept — or even adopt — your values if you are considerate and respectful. You can be firm and unwavering, but you don’t have to hammer everyone to get your point across. And even if the conversation gets you frustrated, take the higher road. Yelling and arguing won’t get you anywhere. Telling a person he or she is stupid, whiny, uninformed or scared won’t win anyone over to our side.

3. Stay Calm and Focused

As much as you’d like to share your story, remember that you’re likely not going to change any minds, so you might as well just smile and move on. Don’t get rattled. Don’t get upset. The anti-gun crowd seems to always be watching for us to mess up or let our guard down. It’s imperative that we stay safe and practice what we preach. You can continue to be a representative of responsible gun ownership and model a positive 2A lifestyle without even saying a word. And remember that holiday get-togethers are only temporary. If you can hold it together long enough without getting annoyed, then you’ll have succeeded.

4. Take a Break

Life is full of little pitfalls, and things don’t always go as planned. So if discussions go awry or if people start to get angry, don’t be afraid to get away. Take a walk. Catch your breath. Find a moment to escape the noise. See if you can hit that “reset” button. And if worse comes to worst, have an excuse to leave the event, perhaps to pick up a forgotten item or just be prepared to make an early exit.

5. Remember Your Reason

You are a gun owner for a reason, whatever that reason is. Something brought you to this all-important decision in your life, and no one can take that from you. Don’t forget that! Don’t let someone’s negative opinion or misconception tear that down. Ultimately, you’ve come together with friends and family to gather around the table in love. And love (for all of those same people!) is exactly why you carry. Maybe one day they will understand that. Until then, keep calm and carry on.

About Beth Alcazar

Boasting several training certifications including TWAW, SIG Sauer Academy, ALICE Institute and I.C.E. Training, Beth Alcazar is enthusiastic about safe and responsible firearms ownership. She has nearly two decades in the firearms industry and is a Certified Training Instructor and Senior Training Counselor for the USCCA and Training Counselor, Chief Range Safety Officer and Certified Instructor for the NRA. The associate editor of Concealed Carry Magazine, Beth also uses her experience and degrees in language arts, education and communication management to author the Pacifiers & Peacemakers column as well as Women’s Handgun & Self-Defense Fundamentals.