We've all had that moment when a lovely family gathering turns to an all out argument. Perhaps Aunty Betty has made a particularly racist comment or maybe there's a highly controversial current event that family members disagree about - dare I mention vaccination?
One way to reduce potential family arguments at Christmas is to negotiate the holiday. This means that everyone has a say in how Christmas proceeds. Read below for some tips on how to manage Christmas without fights.
1. Set some expectations
Before a family event, it helps to set the rules and boundaries. This allows everyone to have an understanding of what is going to happen and makes sure that there is no confusion or anger later on. It also prevents arguments from occurring in the future. Feel free to set rules for topics that will be taboo.
2. Don't require agreement
When controversial topics are raised, don't feel like you need to change other's minds. If someone has different views, learn to live with it and respect their opinions. If you can't agree on everything, try coming to a compromise by offering alternatives or simply telling them that certain topics are taboo.
The chances of convincing someone with a strongly held view are about as high as the chance they they will convert you to their thinking. So generally, unless you like the cut and thrust of a hearty debate, it's better just to leave it alone.
3. Just listen
If someone does get on their soapbox, challenge yourself to listen to what they have to say and why they believe what they do. Ask open questions to really get a feel for where they are coming from in their argument.
You definitely don't need to agree with what the other person is saying but acknowledging that you have listened, along with clever questioning will make them feel heard. This in turn means they will be less defensive and potentially more willing to listen to your point of view.
People are more likely to change their minds when they feel heard, not when they are being aggressively told they are wrong or that it will be their fault if something goes wrong.
4. Avoid the subject
The best way of not sitting through another ten-minute sermon on to good or evil of gun control is just simply by avoiding the subject altogether. Be aware when controversial topics are being raised and have some ideas up your sleeve to be able to turn the conversation to safer topics.
5. Look for the good
In any family argument, there's bound to be some good things that come out of it. Whether it's a shared joke, an inside family story or just the feeling of being close to one another after a heated argument, make sure to talk about the good things that came out of the situation.
6. Take a break
If none of the above work, then feel free to find a reason to leave the room and the conversation. Whether it's going for a walk, moving to another room or just a long bathroom break, allow yourself time to not only leave the conversation but also to reset your own state and approach.
I hope that you find these tips useful and wish you all a very merry, safe and peaceful festive season!