Families can be difficult at the best of times, and close proximity for extended periods of time, along with raised expectations, can make for a very volatile atmosphere. So how can we improve our chances of keeping things peaceful over Christmas?
The fundamental rule is to ask yourself whether saying something during a disagreement would be useful. Not whether it would make you feel better, but whether it would be relevant and useful. So bringing up past arguments and events is out, as is anything that can’t be said constructively.
Not bringing up past events or arguments is useful because it keeps the discussion focused on the current situation. This should be as specific as possible – so for instance “You promised to wash the dishes today, and you haven’t done it” is much better than “You’re lazy”. Even better is talking about your reaction – so “You promised to wash the dishes today, and you haven’t done it, and that makes me feel taken for granted” is even better again than “You’re lazy, and you never think about me”.
Having said what you want to say just keep quiet and let the other person respond. And don’t fall for one of the biggest causes of arguments – don’t assume that you know what the other person is going to say, and stop listening while you come up with what you’ll say next.
If you are in the wrong, don’t make excuses, but say “I’m sorry” very clearly. And if you’re in the right then be gracious about it.