Tips To Avoid Arguing With Loved Ones This Christmas

It’s been quite a year, but it looks like we’re going to be allowed to spend time with loved ones over Christmas. But that doesn’t mean it’s all going to be plain sailing – in fact, after so long apart and so many opinions on everything from the pandemic to Brexit, it may not take much time for tempers to fray. Here’s what the experts suggest to help you avoid arguing with friends and family this Christmas…

Therapist Jessica Boston says…

Take care of your basic human needs first. Arguments can happen when we are sleep deprived, dehydrated or just stressed. Make sure if you are staying away from your own home for a few days you are taking care of yourself and you know who you can ask to get what you need when you feel like your own needs aren’t being met.

Give everyone space. Recognise that as well as your needs, everyone else around you has their own, too. Think about how they recharge their batteries and make sure you factor in some downtime away from each other to prevent unnecessary tensions from building.

Let things go. Many of us already feel a lot of extra pressure at this time of year – financially and emotionally – but with Covid and social distancing, there will be more. That doesn’t mean you have to let your family get away with cruel or unreasonable behaviour or comments, but do your best to let the smaller things go when you can. 

Communicate. If you are returning to a family home, you can be easily be emotionally highjacked and regress back to the behaviour of a younger you and the emotional resilience or lack thereof, which you might have had at that time when you lived in the home. If this happens, do your best to communicate with “I” statements to show how you feel with the people around you. Just make sure you do this with people you feel safe around.

Help where you can. Stress is contagious, and more often than not, one person’s fears gets passed on to others. Offer to chip in and see how you can make things easier and run smoother. It will also feel good and get you in the Christmas giving spirit.

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Psychologist Tony Ortega says…

Check your own motives. Usually, we engage in arguments because we’re not sure of ourselves and about our convictions. By engaging in arguments and getting the person on our side, this provides validation and verification. Check your motives before engaging in this dialogue. What are you trying to prove? If it’s nothing, you’ll be able to engage in civil discussions with just about anyone. 

Think: do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? If you want to be right, you will end up in a full out battle with others. What you are really doing when you are trying to be right is creating more of what you don't want, which is the person arguing back. Connected to the first point, if you are in full conviction of what you believe in and have nothing to prove, you don't ever have to worry about being right. You can focus on being happy, instead.

Avoid saying things when you’re emotional. This decreases our ability to think objectively greatly. You may want to take a breather and come back to the discussion when you are de-escalated from the emotional trigger. Speaking from a more rational frame of mind will lead to greater objectivity in any discussion. 

Remember, you always have a choice. This is the one thing we always have 100% control over. Therefore, do you choose to engage in this battle or not? You are not a helpless victim. Make choices that only you control – we can never control the actions and choices of other individuals. 

Practice your boundary setting and assertiveness skills. A simple statement such as, "I’m not available to speak about this at the moment" can completely de-escalate a potentially volatile discussion. While you may leave the other person perplexed by your response, it immediately lets them know you are not willing to engage. If after some processing time you think you can continue the discussion, then do so. Setting a stern boundary will assist you in that process.

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Entering a stressful environment unprepared is one of the reasons many family events can get the better of you, so accepting the issues beforehand better prepares you to cope with the possible tension.
Zoë Williamson

Relationship coach Lucy Keaveny says…

Don’t take things personally. This year has created distance with relatives, and we may only be seeing some of them for the very first time this Christmas and therefore the pressure to get on is even greater. If everyone has differing opinions around Covid, then it’s best to try and not take things too much to heart.

Lay down some ground rules. Decide the amount of time you are willing to spend with each other and explain how you expect the day to go. If you are tense or agitated or exhausted and stressed, then be aware of this. If it doesn’t feel right to visit family and you just want something quiet and simple, then you are within your rights this year to do exactly that.

Don’t expect everyone to feel the same way as you. Some of us want to really let our hair down and celebrate, others just want to watch films, relax, eat and do very little. Having a level of flexibility and compassion is going to make it easier for everyone. If you are only spending it with your immediate family, then give each other space. If you feel tensions starting to rise know you may be just as responsible in creating it. Take yourself for a walk, go for a run, and get outside for a short while to cool off.

Recognise kindness, gratitude and compassion are key. There is no one who hasn’t been affected by the pandemic. If we start to cultivate this loving awareness to others, we don’t take the way they may behave as seriously. If you have any rage and resentments, try and put them aside for one day or let that person know what is bothering you before you come together.

Communication is paramount. Your kids may be at home more and trying to be as relaxed around them as possible will put less pressure on everyone. If you’re having trouble communicating with your partner, try and let them know what’s on your mind, calmly and kindly. Honesty will always deflate a scaling argument – just know your boundaries. Once you’re clear on your desires for this holiday period be as clear to relatives, your family and your children as possible. Finally, don’t drink so much that all of the above goes completely out the window…

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Relationship therapist Zoë Williamson from GearHungry says…

Accept the day to come. For many, problems with family and friends can begin before you’ve even arrived. Entering a stressful environment unprepared is one of the reasons many family events can get the better of you, so accepting the issues beforehand better prepares you to cope with the possible tension. You need to accept what is true about your family and friends, instead of fantasying about the perfect day – be realistic rather than hope for the best. 

Avoid certain subjects. Many of us are drawn into confrontation and arguments at Christmas time. Whether it’s an older brother teasing you, or a best friend bringing up an embarrassing event from the past, we all tell ourselves that we’ll ignore it, but eventually we cave. To help with this issue, you can apply a method of coping that works in three easy steps – register and acknowledge the experience, determine if it’s useful or not, and if useful, react to it. If not, then let it go. 

Try not to regress. We all grow up, adapt to new environments, and over time change as people. Except on holidays, where people subconsciously revert back into family dynamics. This can obviously be a recipe for disaster, as it can bring a lot of childhood and old behaviours to the surface which can trigger some unwanted tension. Whether it’s arguing with a sibling or fighting with your dad, one of the best ways to deal with it is ask questions. It can move the relationship past frustration, and towards new and improved bonds. 

Pick your battles. When someone who rubs you up the wrong way says something you don’t like, it’s very easy to jump on that and get ready for an all-out argument, but it’s more rational to pick and choose these disagreements. Try to steer the conversation into more a friendly, less volatile direction, and bring in other people so it diffuses the tension.

Find some space. Sometimes, the best solution is time and space. Being cooped up indoors all day with siblings can be a recipe for disaster, especially after barely any social interaction for the last nine months, so try removing yourself from the toxic environment and let the heat settle. Collect yourself, assess the situation and take a moment before trying to fix an argument. Sometimes all is needed is a five-minute break, other times it’s an hour walk to collect your thoughts. The main thing to remember is that the damage is harder to fix after you’ve said something you regret, so if you find yourself feeling tense take a breather and readjust.

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For more information, mental health and relationship support, visit JessicaBoston.com, DrTonyOrtega.com, LucyKeaveny.com and GearHungry.com.

 

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