How you deal with conflicts under the Christmas tree?

Christmas brings not just peace, joy, and the delightful aroma of gingerbread, but it can also stir up family conflicts. We offer advice on how to effectively manage these conflicts when tensions arise during the holiday season.

Mavie editorial team16/12/2022

Conflicts under the Christmas tree

Whether it's a big family reunion, an awkward stepfamily situation or a relationship crisis, the Christmas holidays generate stress and pressure - and it's not uncommon for this to erupt into loud arguments.

Avoiding conflicts doesn't always work - but you can control how and in what context you settle them. The following considerations and tips can help.

Check expectations in advance

Expectations of perfection generate conditions conducive for conflict. The important thing is to reflect in advance whether your expectations are realistic. Are you expecting something that the family would otherwise not normally experience? It can also be helpful to clarify up-front with the family: What do I want, what do the others want, what can we do without? 

When pressure sets in – such as during the Christmas periods – underlying conflicts that remain hidden throughout the year, bubble to the surface. Such conflicts are best addressed at any other time than Christmas. The solution is to suggest resolving these conflicts at another clearly defined time when there is more (emotional) space and time. 

What do I want to achieve from the conflict?

In a conflict situation, it helps to ask yourself: What do I want and what can I contribute to a constructive solution? It is up to you to decide whether you want to stick to your guns - or be willing to compromise, albeit without completely giving up on your position. Starting a conflict conversation by levelling accusations at the other individual is never a good start. Remain objective, while still clearly addressing your needs, wishes and feelings – via first-person messages ("I was annoyed"). 

Fair & solution-oriented discussion

In the self-explanation phase, everyone must have the opportunity to openly present their point of view and enter into dialogue. Here, fairness is required: if someone opens up during the conversation, avoid phrases such as "That's exactly your problem. You see it wrong from the bottom up."Make an effort to understand your counterpart. Ultimately, an impartial solution that costs everyone roughly the same while leaving everyone better off is the most desired outcome. 

All's well that ends well

In the final phase, bring the solution across the finish line. Stay focused, repeat the compromises you jointly developed, and get explicit agreement on each one again. Express your gratitude for the willingness to compromise and constructive input - and perform a small ritual as signal for resolving the family conflict. From a binding handshake to a dinner invitation, it's all good: conflict resolution is something to celebrate.

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