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5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Conflict with Family Members

This is a reblog of a post in the “Workplace Violence Blog” on Nov. 20th, 2012.

“Are you dreading one more holiday with your extended family? You already know that your Mom is going to badger you about why you aren’t married yet? Or, that your mother in-law will treat you like you aren’t good enough for her son? Or maybe it’s Uncle Bill and his awful comments because he has had too much to drink. Everyone has their family issues and conflict stories….you aren’t alone.
Here are a few tips to get through the holidays without engaging in arguments and conflict.

1. Be Prepared for Some Conflict
If you usually have conflict when you get together with your family, it’s a good idea to be prepared for it. Approach the situation with a sense of realism. If your mother always criticizes your appearance or your sister is argumentative, don’t expect them to change their habits. Prepare yourself ahead of time by teaching yourself to stay NEUTRAL and avoid taking their comments personally.

2. Accept the Reality of Who People Really Are
When dealing with difficult people, don’t attempt to change the other person. You will only get into a power struggle that causes defensiveness and invites criticism. The only person we can change is ourselves so if you display good behaviour, others may well follow your lead. Besides, you will also teach the younger generation how to behave in similar situations.

3. Keep Conversations Neutral
Avoid discussing divisive and personal issues, like religion and politics, or other issues that tend to cause conflict. If the other person tries to engage you in a discussion that will probably become an argument, change the subject or leave the room. Change your response to the other person and you will change the dynamic of the relationship.

4. Pick Your Battles
When potential conflict appears, we get to decide whether we will “let it go” or whether we need to deal with it immediately. In most instances our emotional side wants to deal with the issue immediately, but I urge you to step back for a few seconds before engaging. Take time to decide if you really need to have this family battle right NOW. If possible have the difficult conversation with a family member at a later time. Abusive behaviour should not be tolerated at any time so do your part to keep things from neutral to positive. Should someone become abusive to you, draw boundaries and if it continues then you know it is time to leave no matter what other family members say.

5. Know Your Limits
It is okay to limit your time around family members who make you want to pull your hair out or upset you so much that you want to scream at them. Know your realistic limits and be sure to stick to them so that they don’t get on your nerves so much that you end up starting conflict. It is okay to only spend 2 or 3 hours with the family rather than a whole day.

You can even set up a signal or keyword with a trusted family member when you need to be “rescued.” This can be extremely handy when you are stuck in a conversation with a confrontational or relative that is hitting all your buttons. Your family member can run interference before the conversation turns ugly.

Establish realistic expectations whether you are hosting the holiday get together or visiting someone else’s home. Be mindful of the family dynamics and be proactive about how you are going to deal with potential issues.

And most important, BE GRATEFUL! Make a list of each family member who will attend and beside their name write down one or two reasons why you are grateful to have them in your life. Gratitude has a positive impact on your emotional health and it reduces stress. Gratitude will create a different mindset and context for your family holiday.”

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