Tensions are high, and worries remain about the state of our world today.
Family gatherings can be times of wonderful reunions – full of laughter, reminiscences, and the making of new memories. Unfortunately, for some people, family gatherings can also be times of anxiety, grief, and renewed family conflict.
The last two years have been challenging for many families with emotional and politically charged topics dominating our lives and the airwaves. As families gather – many fot the first time in several years – this introduces the possibility of new or renewed conflict. As you prepare for your upcoming holiday celebrations, consider these seven strategies to keep the peace and preserve your precious family relationships.
- Establish ground rules – If you know there are topics that are likely to create conflict, agree with your loved ones ahead of time to make those topics off limits.
- Create a “safe word” – Decide in advance on a word that anyone can use to signal when a conversation is making them uncomfortable. Agree to shift the conversation when the safe word is used. If you pick a silly enough safe word, it might shift the conversation for you. (Just imagine the reaction when someone declares “Aardvark” at the holiday table.)
- Focus on shared memories – Relive the joy of good times together. Share stories from the past. Pull out the photo albums and laugh about all of those crazy fashion choices and family antics of days gone by.
- Assume positive intent – Remember that your loved ones are most likely not intentionally trying to upset you. Give them the benefit of the doubt and seek to understand their intentions.
- Listen to understand – As Stephen Covey has stated, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” If you find yourself on different sides of a topic, make sure you understand the opposing point of view before you engage in debate.
- Avoid unnecessary arguments – Prepare yourself to NOT take the bait! Practice some neutral responses to diffuse a situation or redirect a conversation. Some of my favorites include…
- “Well, that IS interesting. “I will need to think more about that.”
- “Hmmmm” (accompanied by a thoughtful head nod, of course)
- “Would you look at that turkey!”
- And, one that I have borrowed from the very proper mother of a close friend… “Oh dear!”
- Know your limits – Be prepared to remove yourself from a situation before it escalates and risks permanent damage to your relationships.
Tensions are still high, and worries remain about the state of our world today. If you don’t think you can participate in an event without conflicts that will damage your relationships, send your love, and make alternative plans. And, as you plan for these long-awaited reunions, be safe, be kind, and love one another. Happy Holidays!
Darra Wray is a Care Consultant and Certified Senior Advisor with My Care Companions in Boise, Idaho, a company she founded to streamline and simplify the administrative side of family caregiving. You can learn more about My Care Companions and the My Data Diary+ family information management software tool at www.mycarecompanions.com.