How To Avoid Conflict At Christmas

How To Avoid Conflict At Christmas

Posted on December 17th 2019 by Marisa Peer

How To Avoid Conflict At Christmas

As we approach the season of family festivities, family gatherings are also renowned for family fallouts. Here are some top tips to avoid conflict at Christmas, or at least to help you argue constructively.

It is unrealistic to expect to never row or disagree, especially when people are busy, stressed and feeling under pressure. People arguing is ok as long as you do it constructively. The definition of a good relationship is how couples argue and most importantly how they end the argument. I can often predict if a relationship will last, just by observing how couples argue.

“Not in front of the kids ...?”

Although you should try not to fight in front of children, seeing parents disagree and make up is not damaging when done in constructive ways. 

When children see people arguing and resolve it, it allows them to go out into the world with the same skills and not to fear disagreements.

Firstly, aim for resolution with solutions.

You should not argue to make someone else ‘wrong’ or to make them feel bad. You should not try to point out how useless they are and how superior you are. You are arguing to resolve something, so do it in a confident, productive, solution-orientated way.

Imagine you are at a business meeting and treat the other person with respect. If you would not argue like that at work, then don’t do it at home. Also, stay on topic, if you are arguing because your partner is always late or overspends stay only on that subject, don't add that you can’t stand how messy they are or the fact that they forget your birthday. When you stay only on the topic you are arguing about you get resolution more rapidly.

Secondly, testing behaviour = an important life skill

Testing teenagers (“tweenagers” and children acting like teenagers) can feel exhausting, as they seem to want to argue with their parents on every point. 

What helps is to remember they are learning the debating and negotiating skills that they will need in adulthood. These skills are essential for their confidence. The only people they can practice on are their parents ...and they need to practice a lot!

The only way our children can assert themselves and confidently say no to peer pressure (drugs, sex, or drinking etc) is if they have had enough practice and freedom at home in saying no and being heard and respected for their opinion.

We cannot control others or external events, but we can control how we respond and the meaning we attach to it. Therefore take back your control of how you feel and be glad that you have children who can assert themselves and voice their opinions, rather than meek followers. No matter how exasperating, see it as an opportunity to practice important life skills by helping your children argue constructively too.

Thirdly, some practical advice for domestic conflict resolution

Good communication involves sharing insights. The other person already knows what they have done and they know how they feel. You are giving no insight to them when you simply tell them what they’ve done wrong. You will become much more successful at communicating and resolving rows if you explain how you feel rather than accuse. 

If you hear yourself say “You”, remember we say YOU when we are accusing the other person. When you say “I…” you are more likely explaining your emotions.

To explain how you are feeling and provide further insights, try these:

  • I get upset by... (instead of “you do...”)
  • I feel sad when... (rather than “you upset me by…”)
  • I was hurt about… (rather than “you hurt me!”)
  • I got angry over... (not “you made me so angry”)
  • I feel like this when... (instead of “you make me feel…”)

Don’t add “always” or “never,” as you will lose an argument when you make grand and exaggerated statements, because you have given the other person a way to undermine you.

“I understand how you feel…”

Instead of responding with “I don’t agree” or “you’re wrong”, try: “ I understand how you feel / why you feel that way and...” then you can share your view. Or you could try “I hear you.” “I understand what you’re saying/feeling - even if I don’t agree with it.” Just because I don’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean I don’t know how you feel.

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

When it comes to people arguing, those that can apologize actually demonstrate that they are confident, have high self-esteem and are very solution orientated. Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness, but of strength, inner confidence and resolution.

Remember, it is always more important to do the right thing than it is to be right; sometimes it is more important to be kind than it is to be right.

So this Christmas, invite friends and relatives to have a lovely family time and focus on the outcome you want. Set expectations and give kids a clear schedule of when they can and can not be on screen time, so they join in with the family at important times. If it all gets too much, try getting out of the house and taking a walk. Agree to share chores, rather than everyone staying in one room watching TV while the host does all the prep and cleaning. Something as simple as putting a TV in the guest bedroom can stop arguments about what to watch that suits everyone.

In summary, learn to respond to conflict constructively and end the argument well, so you don’t have to fear family arguments. Not arguing at all is unrealistic, but you can argue in a productive and constructive way and use it as an opportunity to develop important life skills.