In an ideal world, the holidays would only be filled with good times and happy memories. Unfortunately, most people don’t exist in that uncomplicated reality.
It seems like every family has at least one relative who excels at creating drama during the holidays. When you’re around such negative or aggressive people, it’s common to feel apprehensive, defensive, and uncomfortable. Your body may react to heightened situations by secreting excessive amounts of adrenaline or cortisol, which can make you feel even more anxious and stressed.
Family Conflict Instigators
There are many reasons why arguments flare up during holiday gatherings. Some people want to be the center of every conversation. Other family members just enjoy creating drama.
Here’s a look at some common instigators of family conflicts:
Every family gathering is sure to have a gossiper, whose negative or critical remarks ignite emotional brushfires everywhere she goes. Also present at many holiday get-togethers is the offensive loudmouth, who has no filter and doesn’t hesitate to inform you that you’ve gained weight since the last time he saw you.
Alcohol can make some people happy and others moody and mean. Liquid courage has been known to loosen tongues and lower inhibitions. For people who love stirring the pot by bringing up controversial or politically charged topics, alcohol can act as an accelerant for all manner of bad behaviors.
A family member may have aggressive tendencies that drives them to be combative. Many people are stimulated by arguments and seek out conflict. If they can lure you into a debate, the low energy in their frontal brain is stimulated, and that rush temporarily makes them feel better.
Don’t let your anger become their medication. They can get addicted to it!
So, how do you handle someone who thrives on conflict? Fighting fire with fire, by raising your voice or using abusive or unsavory language, certainly won’t help matters.
Avoiding confrontations isn’t the answer either, since minimizing or brushing aside a dispute may further embolden the aggressor and make things even worse. To effectively deal with disagreements, handle them calmly and appropriately as they happen.
Here are some practical ways to prevent family strife this holiday season:
Simple Ways to Keep the Peace & Avoid Holiday Feuds
Keep Your Cool
To prevent a pressure-packed situation from getting out of hand, always keep your cool. Discipline yourself to remain quiet until you’re calm enough to speak at a normal volume and in a kind tone. Closely monitor your comments and reactions to make sure they’re coming from a rational place, rather than an emotional one.
Be sure to offer thoughtful advice rather than criticism. Tone of voice is crucial in disarming a potentially volatile situation. Always model calm behavior and others will likely follow your example.
Take a Time-out
When someone raises their voice or begins to lose their temper, take a family time-out. This type of collective breather involves everyone in the family going to a separate part of the house for a designated period (typically 10-15 minutes).
Spending some time away from other family members may help everyone settle down and forget about the argument. A cooldown period only works if you have buy-in from the entire family, so make sure everyone agrees with taking a time-out to avoid starting yet another argument.
Some people have the ability to mentally escape to a happy place during heated discussions or tense moments. Others can sing a song in their head to distract themselves.
Hopefully, you won’t have to literally bite your tongue to remain silent, but whatever you need to do to keep from being dragged into the middle of a family feud is worth trying.
When others are yelling, start whispering. The dramatic change in the decibel level of your voice will most likely make everyone stop talking to hear what you have to say. Something in our psyche makes us lean in and listen more attentively when someone is whispering.
This tactic has been used with great success from board rooms to political assemblies. If a family argument is getting out of control, try whispering to see if you can get everyone’s attention. Then you can attempt to deescalate the conflict.
Build a Bridge
Instead of trying to convince the other person that your viewpoint is correct, attempt to understand their perspective as well. The main objective isn’t to win the argument but to remove potential threats, address concerns, and find common ground with the other person.
Building a bridge is one of the best ways to avert a quarrel before it even starts.
Take It Outside
When drawn into a discussion that makes you feel uncomfortable, look for a way to redirect the conversation. If that doesn’t work, find a polite way to remove yourself from the situation.
Another strategy is to get the entire family outside for some fun and exercise. This is an effective way to let off some steam when things get too tense inside the house.
It’s been said that the holidays bring out the best and worst in people. When it comes to the latter, you don’t have to let someone else ruin your holiday.
Practicing these conflict management strategies can help to ensure that everyone in your family enjoys a fun-filled, stress-free holiday season.
The BrainMD team wishes you and yours a safe, healthy, and happy Holiday Season!
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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