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Opinion: How to Deal With Foul Family Members During the Holidays

With the holidays rapidly approaching, many will be reuniting with their family members to celebrate the joy and festivity of this holiday season. However, the distance of these relatives can often lead to a number of difficult clashes. Differences of opinion can lead to hostile conversations and complete destruction of the merry holiday mood.

The concept of conflict at the dinner table is nothing new, but there are some steps that can be taken to prevent it:

  1. Be Prepared 

Before any holiday reunion with your family, think about what you can do to improve the experience. Consider what you can do to contribute to a pleasant and productive gathering regardless of what others may feel inclined to do. In other words, prepare to be the best version of yourself, and encourage others to behave similarly.

Have an open mind and stray away from the assumption that all familial assemblages will be bleak. If your family members work together to create a tolerant atmosphere, conflict can be avoided and the presence of family can be fully enjoyed. This type of optimistic mindset can help all involved parties to participate in the holiday spirit.

  1. Be Thoughtful

Many social blunders are a result of carelessness, particularly when a lack of tact or understanding is involved. To prevent incessant arguing, think about the possible consequences of your words and actions. Though there are some events that cannot be predicted, certain social situations will be within your control.

Even the most basic of statements can be misinterpreted at times. When in doubt, try to assume that your relatives mean well. If they are purposely trying to provoke others and cause quarrels, it is best to rise above it. In a social setting, being thoughtful may be the difference between civility and insolence.

  1. Avoid Touchy Subjects

While the commonly-known taboo subjects include money, politics, and religion, the guidelines for a family dinner vary greatly. Even if you are innocently curious about the lives of your relatives, broaching the subject can sometimes cause more harm than good. To maintain peace, it is often better to avoid certain discussion topics altogether. 

Before speaking, you should ensure that the topic you wish to discuss will not prompt aggression from anyone. If you are unsure about whether a particular subject should be discussed, choose to ask a more open-ended question instead. You may be able to inquire about that subject in private later, without the risk of causing an endless debate amongst your family members.

  1. Take Time for Yourself

If you feel surrounded by negativity and disagreement, take time to relax and enjoy time alone or with relatives that you can tolerate. A peaceful, pleasant experience is more important than being with family all of the time. When necessary, leave the room and take a moment to collect yourself before returning.

Taking time for yourself can help you to keep calm and avert further conflict. It can also prevent a growing sense of tension between family members, which can sometimes result from the overwhelming stress of familial situations. Finally, it allows you to temporarily distance yourself from others and alleviate stress in the process.

  1. Hope for the Best

When considering the unique and various personalities within your family, it is important to understand that there are no infallible methods that will ensure a peaceful family gathering. Ultimately, all of your family members are unique individuals with occasionally unpredictable personalities.

This means that you must hope for the best. If conflict does arise, acknowledge that you did what you could to prevent it and do what you can to help resolve the situation. It is impossible for you to have complete control over any other person’s behavior, so do not place blame yourself for any resulting issues.

While relatives can sometimes make the holiday season stressful, they can also improve the experience. This year, appreciate the presence of your family, even when their behavior is less than agreeable. If nothing else, you can learn how to be more tolerant and tolerable. 

Despite what your relatives may say or do, you can still enjoy the holidays.

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