Terri Trespicio recently reported that “in a random sample of more than 1,350 people, [psychologist Leonard] Felder found that 75% had at least one family member who gets on their nerves. Chances are, you know just who that is in your clan: the one who's going to make a careless comment when you walk in the door, or drink too much at dinner, or end up in tears by dessert.”
This amusing observation may hardly be news to you, but could it also apply to acquaintances, coworkers, and even strangers?
There's no denying that the holiday season can heighten both tensions and tempers alike, putting you at a loss when it comes to diffusing them.
While not every altercation can be avoided, there are a number of ways you can manage and even resolve a dispute, especially around the holidays.
Think Before Reacting
It's easy to let our emotions get the best of us when provoked, and act without thinking ahead to the consequences. This is a surefire way to escalate a conflict, and possibly bring about a resolution you'll come to regret.
Taking a momentary pause before responding the next time someone offends or challenges you will go a long way towards an actual solution, rather than exacerbation.
Acquire Anger Management Tools
Anger management is its own separate topic, but nonetheless bears mentioning as a crucial component of conflict resolution.
In fact, the aforementioned “thinking before you react” tactic is a key tool in anger management, with the American Psychological Association suggesting these additional steps to tampering an angry flare-up:
- Breathe deeply from your diaphragm or “gut,” rather than your chest
- Slowly repeat calming words or phrases like “relax” or “take it easy,” while taking deep, steady breaths
- Use relaxing visualization
- Adopt some simple breathing and muscle relaxing exercises and practice them regularly
Know When To Walk Away
Some disputes simply aren't worth your time or energy, as in most cases they rarely have anything to do with you personally.
When a coworker or acquaintance lashes out, ask yourself if they're currently under stress and if the conflict in question is a momentary outburst. The holidays can certainly shorten the most even-tempered person's fuse, and what may feel like a personal attack could be a case of misdirected frustration.
Encountering rude holiday shoppers and grumpy pedestrians is also par for the holiday course, and if you come up against such persons shrug, wish them a happy holiday, and move along.
Not only will this highlight their own bad behavior, but excuse you from having to interact any further.
Draw Clear Boundaries
There's a fine line between letting something go and allowing others to abuse you, and it's important that you differentiate for your own wellbeing.
Sure, sometimes people lose their tempers or lash out at random targets, but if you frequently find yourself on the receiving end of someone's ire, you should certainly stand up for yourself and let them know that kind of behavior is unacceptable.
Unfortunately it's often the most non-confrontational people who get the brunt of others' outbursts–after all, you're an easy target in their minds.
For the rest of the month and into the new year practice drawing clear and non negotiable boundaries, and insist that others respect them if they want to interact with you.
A lot of misunderstandings could easily be cleared up if both parties took a moment to listen, rather than lash out or jump to defend themselves.
The holidays are a tense time for everyone, filled with triggers and stressors that can lead to frequent clashes. Often these instances pass on their own and carry little significance, while in other instances they require deeper communication.
In order to quickly diffuse an altercation, take a moment to listen to what the other person has to say, then proceed.
You can even use phrases like “I understand why you feel this way, here is how how I feel” or “I would like to resolve this in a way that's agreeable for both of us” in order to instill a sense of respect and empathy in the other person.
Distance Yourself If Necessary
There are certain individuals who sow conflict no matter the time of year, or unfairly target you out of habit.
If such an occurrence feels more routine than seasonal, it may be time to put some space between yourself and that person.
If it's a family member or acquaintance, try confronting them first about their behavior and ask that they be more mindful of how they treat you.
In the more complicated case of a coworker, you may need to ask for the assistance of a human resource manager.
Speak With Someone You Trust
Sometimes it helps to vent to someone about exasperating people and situations–think of how much better you tend to feel after you've unburdened yourself to a workmate or friend over an after-work cocktail.
Sometimes it's best to save your temper in the moment, walk away, and confide in a trustworthy companion when the coast is clear.
Need Help Resolving Conflicts?
However, if seasonal and year-round conflicts are getting the best of your mental state and ability to function, you may want to speak with a professional therapist.
An in-office or online therapist can help you target underlying issues that may be eluding you, as well as help you adopt healthier tools for dealing with disputes and the people involved, no matter the time of year.