It happens inevitably. We show up for a joyful holiday gathering with high expectations for family togetherness and giving thanks. Then someone brings up a dreaded word… Trump. Or Biden. How do we keep the peace with family members of a different political persuasion? Here’s how to avoid family conflict during holidays.
Strategies for Avoiding Family Conflict During Holidays
Remember, this is your family—your peeps—and you want to enjoy the holidays and keep the peace. You have long-term, loving relationships, and everyone wants the best for each other.
So go into the gathering with positive intentions for peace and harmony.
If a political conversation starts, don’t take the bait. Deflect. Since you probably disagree on a few issues, talk about things that bring you together.
Specifically, ask questions about their kids, family, work, school, sports, life… basically, anything but politics. Ask: How’s the family? Where are you going next for vacation? What big projects are you involved with at work? How about that (football, hockey or basketball) team? What are you streaming these days? Did you hear about Emily’s new job? Raise subjects that you have in common.
If Political Discussions Arise…
If you get into that dreaded political conversation, use the “Newscaster Tactic.” That is, ask questions. Be reflective and focus on the facts.
Say: Hmm, interesting. Is that true? How do you know? On what do you base that statement? What’s your source? Why do you think that?
Sometimes you have a feeling in advance that you’re going to get into a spirited conversation with a certain relative.
If that’s the case, avoid family conflict during holidays by coming prepared with facts.
Don’t argue opinions. That only escalates to emotional outbursts. If the other person makes a good point, say, “Good point!” And if you don’t have facts, that’s another reason to de-escalate.
You can suggest talking another time when everyone knows more about the situation.
Avoid personal attacks, which will destroy the holiday for sure. And beware of trigger words that are meant to get your blood boiling. These are simple words or phrases just about everyone has in their family that quickly remind us of another emotional experience.
Maybe there was a long-ago dispute about a bicycle, where a brother or sister got a better one than you did. Or perhaps someone couldn’t finish a tough hike, and others made fun of them. Just mentioning a “bicycle” or “hiking” can get folks rolling their eyes, feeling emotional, and maybe even shouting at each other.
Recognizing these possibilities allows you the chance to think about how you can lower the temperature in case they do come up. Try to let it go. After all, the goal is togetherness, not family conflict during holidays.
Agree to Disagree
If you can’t agree, then call a truce.
Agree on one thing—wow, there’s a lot of excitement and opinion out there, on all sides! Agree to disagree.
Everyone has opinions, so chalk this one up to differing perspectives. If family conflict during holidays is avoided, it brings a much more peaceful time where you can put your perspective aside and focus on the here and now.
Remember, you’re dealing with family. Keeping your long-term relationship is more important than winning a short-term argument. It’s okay to disagree, but be respectful. And remember, it’s okay to deflect the conversation and avoid the dispute.
And most important, have a great, loving holiday season!
Barry Moline is a keynote speaker, 25-year CEO and author of Connect! How to Quickly Collaborate for Success in Business and Life. He offers effective, connective ways to communicate, which help your success in both the workplace and beyond. Download his free 30+ Workplace Icebreakers to Use Right Now and start opening up and branching out!
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