Coping with Toxic Family Members During the Holidays
8 ways to avoid family fights
There's something about the holiday season that can bring out the worst in some people. Even a loving family can have members who lose their cool during the season, due to the stresses of planning the “perfect” Christmas.
Luckily, there are ways to take control and not let a toxic family member get the best of you during a holiday gathering.
Avoid family fighting with these 8 tips
Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and author and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, shared her best tips on handling toxic family members during the holidays:
- Talk it out in advance. If you suspect there will be an issue with family members at the holiday table, or you know there is a family feud going onbetween your two sisters who haven’t spoken in years, ask for a truce. There is no use trying to ignore the fact that there is friction. Ask for cooperation between your family members for the sake of the holiday gathering. Throw in a little guilt by saying, “I don’t want our children to see their aunts arguing – they love you both and it will be upsetting for everyone.”
- Don’t take it personally. Just because someone expresses an opinion doesn’t mean you must let it get you upset. Stay positive and keep your sense of humor intact. You can even choose to ignore them completely. It’s better to be silent than to treat rude with rude.
- Diffuse sibling rivalry. Your brother may have a nasty habit of chiding you and trying to embarrass you in front of others. Call him a couple of weeks prior and suggest changing the dynamic of your relationship. Let him know you are uncomfortable and that you don’t want to make a big deal of it in front of others. Thank him in advance for his consideration. If he continues at the dinner table, you get the choice of saying, “I asked you several weeks ago if we could drop this childish banter. I would appreciate it if you would stop. Now.”
- Speak your mind. In a diplomatic manner. If you feel the conversation is getting out of hand, speak up and say, “I am not going to be a part of this banter. I suggest we change the subject before we all say something we regret.”
- Debate with integrity. No doubt the presidential candidates will come up as conversation fodder during the holidays. Feel free to share your views but don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you. If temperatures start to rise at the table, step in and say, “Hey guys, let’s all agree to disagree. We don’t see each other very often – let’s go around the table and talk about what we are grateful for.”
- Create a flexible itinerary. Offer a few ideas on different activities to consider while family is visiting for the holidays. Having planned events during your trip or stay allows little time for sitting around. Last minute planning may also make family feel unimportant.
- Go to the movies or a sports event. If conversation with your family isn’t your strong suit, opt for entertainment options that don’t require a great deal of personal interaction. By choosing to attend a local play, or attend an art exhibit, you are spending time and creating memories with your family, while successfully avoiding awkward lulls in conversation.
- Retire to your room early. Make your end of the day routine well known. Simply say, “Today has been great, I am going to start winding down. Feel free to stay up as late as you would like. See you all in the morning.” This will allow you to reclaim your evening, by relaxing in the room you are staying in alone.
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