Happy Holidays, Indeed: How To Avoid Fights With In-Laws

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happy family holidays in-laws
4 tips for avoiding conflict with your extended family during the holidays.

For instance, recalling your past mistakes might serve the purpose of pushing you to compliance by making you feel inadequate. When you realize this is the game, you don't have to take the critique at face value and defend yourself; you only need to figure out which way they want you to comply. When you know it, you can decide what to do.

2. Detach from the emotion that it provokes. This is the hardest part for me. Naturally, put-downs, labels and attacks provoke anger and defensiveness, but this is when understanding is appropriate. If it comes from personality or priority difference, I bet you can find a way to tolerate it.

If it comes with a manipulative edge, you might be rightfully angry, but that's so much different from feeling ashamed when you're called and believe you're a "loser," "weak" or whatever it was. When you realize this imposed feeling is suppose to motivate you to do something you don't want to, you can simply dismiss the feeling.

3. Be sure of what your standpoint is regarding the question. Do you prefer open and outgoing people or do you like the withdrawn personalities better? Do you value a more secure but dull workplace above an independent challenging one? Do you believe in an authoritative leadership or a democratic one? Do you want to go to the movie that night or spend some time quietly with a book? Rest reassured you have the right to decide what you do, and to judge your own behavior. You're the only one to say whether you like something or not.

4. Stand up for your needs. When you figure out what you really want independently of others' requests, pressures or expectations, stand up for your needs and wants in a calm, assertive way using "I" messages. You might apply the "Broken Record" method, which is repeating the same wish over and over again without raising your voice.

It is best if you can begin by acknowledging the other's feelings. For example, "I understand that you would like me to make more money, but I find my present workplace very rewarding." Or, "I understand that this is your traditional family recipe, but my stomach cannot handle spicy food." Or, "I see you are bored and want to go out, but I really don't feel like going to the party tonight. What do you think about a movie with just the two of us?"

Processing all four steps in the heat of the moment is not an easy assignment. When someone challenges you during the holidays and you feel the bodily signs of getting into flight-or-fight mode, take some deep breaths and imagine one of your respected friends in front of you. How would you say your opinion to her? From that perspective, say it that way!

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Zita Fekete

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