The winter holiday season usually means time with family. Time with family does not always mean easy. Most of us have family members who simply operate differently and it can drive us nuts. So, how can we get through being with the family members whose way sometimes creates conflicts for us while at the same time honoring our boundaries and happiness?
Step One: Learn a little more about your natural conflict reaction style as well what you think the other person’s is. Do you naturally avoid all conflicts or do you go at them head on? Or do you think you fall somewhere in between? I’ve got a brief quiz for you (link below) to identify your style so you will be better prepared for what comes at you.
Click here for the Conflict Reaction Quiz. Fill in your name and email and you’ll receive a link to the quiz as well as a subscription to the Clarity E-Zine.
Step Two: Take some time to think about how you want to be or react to people or situations. Keep that version of you in the front of your mind when mingling with family and try to be that person.
Step Three: Practice regularly in every day situations with the intention of being who you want to be. Try to not let other people's junk throw you off from your vision of you.
Below, I discuss the five general types of conflict reaction styles. We can all be a little or a lot of these in any given situation depending on the particulars of the situation and our mood.
AVOIDERS: If you sense even the beginning of tension rising, you change the subject or disappear from the room. You don’t want to deal at all with the situation or the person who is bringing it about. If the issue isn’t important then this reaction is just fine. But if it is important to you or the other person, you may need to deal with it, at least a little. For you, just recognizing that the thing is an issue and not disappearing is a step in the right direction. During Step Two above, picture yourself staying in the room and at least acknowledging that there is an issue. Next would be to try and understand what the other person is trying to say or get done AND trying to make your needs and wants heard.
ACCOMMODATERS: Like Avoiders, you would rather not be involved in any kind of conflict but your reaction is to placate the other person as a way to resolve it. Also as said above, if it’s not important, accommodating the other person is nice response and may even go a long way in building a stronger relationship. But if giving in really isn’t what you want to do for important reasons, then accommodating maybe isn’t your best choice, just your natural one. Instead of just agreeing or giving in, try stating what it is you think or want. And repeat as necessary. It may also help to point out other areas where you did accommodate to point out that this time it’s different and you’re asking them to respect that.
COMPETERS: When conflict arises, you feel juiced and ready to debate. No matter the issue, you like to feel like you came out on top, whether it’s a difference of opinion on economics or where to go for dinner. Regardless, you feel compelled to argue until your way is the way. Unlike the Avoiders and Accommodators who I encourage to speak up, I suggest you do the opposite. If you’ve already said your piece once (but honestly you’ve probably said it twice), try to stop talking and start listening. Hearing what the other person has to say without interrupting them does not mean you agree with them. Listen for anything that might be close to what you think and recognize that. You don’t have to agree with them on everything but if there’s anything then you could have a more balanced conversation. For example: “I still think ___________ is the better way to go but I do see your point about ___________.
COMPROMISERS: When there’s a disagreement, you’re not afraid to accept the other person’s opinion and you hope they’ll accept yours too, at least a little. Ideally, as you soften your position and they do as well, you’ll start to create an deal so you can all move forward. The good thing about this style is that it is solution oriented and you’re not prone to dwell. The danger is in giving up too much when something is important to you. Just as above, I encourage you consider your boundaries carefully so you meet in the middle only when it doesn’t compromise something important.
COLLABORATORS: It is important to you that everyone involved get pretty much everything they need or want. You work to find solutions that include everyone working together. The challenge here is that not everyone always wants to work together so you may find yourself trying to make something happen and the end result is that you’ve just annoyed everyone. Depending on the degree to which you’re inflicted with this advanced style of figuring things out, your next step might be to learn to accept compromise (where each person gives up a little to meet in the middle) or even accommodate when the best or easiest answer is to just go with the person who has the most passion around an issue. Again, in the spirit of moving forward these options can do that without getting you too bogged down.
As you are managing a tough conversation, you may need something else to talk about to change the subject and keep the peace. Here are some additional ideas for making it through the holidays with your sanity in tact.
Final note: As you work to respect and acknowledge the thoughts, opinions, and needs of others, include in that which conflict reaction style they are likely operating under. If you can start to speak their language you may have better luck in getting through a disagreement peaceably. Good luck and Happy Holidays!