Being With Family You Don’t Like.
For many families the holidays are special times to connect with loved ones they don’t see often but, it can also be stressful as a backdrop for opposing personalities to collide. What if you could get together for hours with your siblings, in-laws, step-family members, (and others) over a holiday meal and leave without arguing or fighting explosively with anyone? Here are some tips to help you have a happier family holiday this year.
Signs of Conflict
Look for the warning signs. If you see any of these behaviours unfolding in your conversation with a family member you might be on the edge of another unfriendly dispute. (Based on the conflict research by Dr. Rob Kendal, Psychology Today)
- Blaming. Energy is focused on assigning blame on the other for the problem instead of seeking a solution.
- Intensity. Emotions take over, the intensity rises, voices raise and threats and insults are hurled.
- Dismissal of the other’s ideas and feelings. (“Yes, but…”). The other party’s opinions and feelings are ignored because they differ from the speaker. Persons therefore become argumentative and defensive in order to get heard or to win the debate.
- Domination and control of the conversation. This may look like interrupting, completing the other’s sentences, steering the topic and flow of the conversation, etc.
How to Turn Things Around (Relationship Repair)
Okay, what if you tried to swerve around conversation dangers but you still find yourself in a dispute with your family nemesis? Here are a few strategies to try to reduce the damage and avoid ruining the party:
Express appreciation. According to J. Gottman (renowned relationship expert) taking a moment to acknowledge appreciation for the other person’s experience or willingness to express their differing ideas has been proven to soothe escalating persons. Say something like … “I didn’t know that you saw things that way, I’m glad you told me”.
Repeat what you’ve heard the other person saying. Hold back on putting forward your own perspective. Let them know you understand their position. Desist from offering your best, well-intentioned advice (even if it is also widely proven and endorsed by experts ).
Accept some responsibility. Look for how your actions or words might have contributed to the argument/fight. It is the more courageous, more mature position to say, “Can I take that back?” or, “You’re right, I could have been (more/less)…..” You can prove to be the better person and not make them bitter too.
Finally, Escape. When you hear the argument intensifying and becoming hostile find a reason to excuse yourself. You could go get another helping of pie (or something), or help the host with a chore, or refresh yourself in the washroom.
Maybe Escape into a Kid Friendly Holiday Movie? – Suggestions here
The chain linking family and fighting can be broken. By making attempts at some of the strategies mentioned you might be able to enjoy get-togethers without wishing for a resident family counsellor to mediate.
What ONE tip would you give to a friend about keeping the peace? Please, offer more help for families by adding your ideas below.
Video (3min) -The Money Couple shares: 3 Ways To Stay Out of Debt During the Holidays
Help for Families Canada in South Edmonton offers counselling for families to help them resolve conflicts and learn to enjoy each other. (#family therapy, counseling).