The holidays can be stressful. Do you and your mate find yourselves involved in more arguments than usual during the holiday season? Do you encounter acquaintances and family members who have the uncanny ability to push your buttons and get in your face, even though you set out to steer clear of holiday strife? This year, you can survive the holidays and even better, enjoy them!
As a lawyer and couples mediator I have observed the same dumb arguments ruining relationships during the holidays, and year round. In my book Fight Less, Love More: 5 Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In, I share five smart comments you can rely on time and again to short-circuit an argument.
Here are the top five arguments that emerge around the holidays, and the smart responses you can use to reject conflict.
1. The Political Argument: "You're wrong. I don't want that flip-flopping jerk in the White House."
Smart Response: Don't defend, just deflect. Say: "That's your opinion and you have a right to it. But for now, let's agree to disagree and enjoy the party." By stating the obvious and rejecting the bait you sound wise without adding fuel to the fire.
2. The Financial Argument: "We can't afford that gift!"
Smart Response: Focus on facts. Say: "Let's sit down and go over the household cash flow." Without facts at hand, assumptions lay the foundation for an onslaught of disputes. By sharing the math about your expenses you will know what you can, and cannot, afford.
3. The Techno-Pest Argument: "We have guests over. Get off that $%#@&*^ computer!"
Smart Response: Employ positive criticism. Say: "You know, we really miss your company out here. I like hearing what you have to say. Will you join us?" If your mate chooses tech toys over people this holiday season, don't complain, just explain. When phrased with flattery, you'll get what you want.
4. The Over-Sharing Argument: "I can't believe you told your brother I am unemployed. I wasn't going to tell anyone until I find another job."
Smart Response: Create a "border control." Say: "Before we go to the dinner, let's agree on which topics are private versus public." Perhaps your recent health issues and job instability are things you don't want your nosy aunt to know. Everyone, even your spouse, has a different expectation of what is private vs. what is public. If you expect your mate to read your mind, you've opened the door to a fight. Avoid potential foot-in-mouth moments with a pre-holiday discussion.
5. The "I Always Do Everything" Argument: "I have to prepare the food, wrap the gifts, watch the kids and greet all the guests while you're busy drinking beer with your friends in the living room."
Smart Response: Ask for what you want. Be specific. Say, "There are three things I'd like you to do for our holiday dinner: 1) Go to the bakery to pick up the fresh bread and rolls. 2) When guests arrive, please greet them and offer everyone drinks, and 3) When it's time to eat, you help me bring the food in and out of the kitchen. Can you do that?" Research shows that getting an advance commitment makes the person more likely to follow-through.
With these five smart responses you can dodge unnecessary conflict so your holidays are what they should be -- happy!