Should You Argue At Christmas?
For some, it’s not Christmas without a family argument. So much so that the average home will have at least five arguments on Christmas Day. For others, they spend the festive season with their mouths clamped firmly shut to prevent a row. In fact, 84% say a feud-free Christmas is really important to them. So, if underlying resentments or issues are likely to resurface during the festive season, what is the best course of action? Should you argue at Christmas or bite your tongue?
Festive frustrations – Why we argue at Christmas
While Christmas is usually a time for peace and joy, most households are anything but harmonious. So why does this time of year cause so many problems? Here are three of the main reasons;
We believe Christmas should be perfect
Thanks to films, the media and our own wishes, we have a belief that Christmas should be a magical time when everything turns out perfectly. Of course, it doesn’t matter how much preparation you make; things will not always turn out the way you want them too. When the festive season doesn’t meet your expectations of what it should be, emotions can run high.
Similarly, we hope that people will change to be more in line with what we believe is acceptable behaviour. Of course, people’s personalities will not change, however nice we try to be to each other at this time of year.
Deeper issues come to the surface
Often arguments at Christmas are not because of the festive season itself. Usually, there are underlying resentments that manifest throughout the year, or even longer. Then, at Christmas, with higher levels of stress and often increased consumption of alcohol, we begin to let the other person know how upset we are through trivial matters.
For example, relationship charity, Relate, say they experience a spike in couples calling in January. A similar theme occurs of partners not supporting them in the run-up to Christmas or not sticking up for them at festive gatherings. These calls usually indicate a bigger problem of a lack of support and compassion at all times, not just at Christmas.
Invites cause chaos
Over 40% of Brits are involved with at least one family feud. Consequently, the many social gatherings at this time of year mean that you are more than likely to bump into people who you’d rather not see. Invitations can cause drama before the event itself. You may feel uncomfortable going to an event if a particular person will be there. Alternatively, you may struggle to know who to invite when you have two feuding relatives and do not want to take sides.
The stress of organising events around family feuds can be difficult and may inadvertently cause more arguments as people share their thoughts on who and who not to invite.
To argue or not to argue?
With so many issues and frustrations that arise during the festive season, it can be hard to know what to do for the best. Furthermore, when problems catch you off guard, you end up reacting rather than processing the issue. However, by preparing yourself, you should be able to handle the situation in the best possible way.
Water off a duck’s back
If you find yourself arguing with someone because of the same-old behaviour patterns, then it is usually best to try and stay calm and not rise to the situation. Try not to go in with the hope that they may have changed their ways. Instead, indulge yourself with a minute of reflecting about what you wish they were like, and then try to detach yourself from the situation and accept their behaviour as a part of them.
Try to transform your mindset from dreading and predicting their behaviour patterns. Instead, go in positively. In the best case, the person may surprise you. In the worst case, you may get some comedy material from the situation that you can share with friends afterwards!
Be in control by losing control
If someone criticises you or makes hurtful comments, the instinctive reaction is to argue back or stand up for yourself. It may be your mother dropping hints about trying a new diet plan, or your gran asking you when you’ll finally settle down and get married. It may be your uncle criticising your career choice or your father telling you how proud he is of your sibling without mentioning you.
Whatever it is that feels like a personal attack; you don’t have to justify yourself. Remember, that if you take the bait and try to control the attacker, you are actually putting them in control. Instead, be the one to take control of the situation, smile politely and stick to your ethics, beliefs and opinions. Reacting to their criticisms will only be seen as validating their views.
Remember, you cannot control what they think and say, but you can control how your own thoughts. Thinking positively will enable you to heal any wounds left by these attacks and will ensure their words have less effect on you in the future.
Sometimes, family or social gatherings can be a great way to clear the air for any underlying or long-term problems. If you’ve gone a long time biting your tongue, then a discussion may be necessary before you say something you regret. These conversations can help to get you out of the negative routine you find yourself in and can be the only way to either resolve the situation or get closure.
If you are planning to clear the air, this mustn’t be a surprise for the other participants. Jumping straight in with your concerns will catch the other participants off guard. As a result, they will be reacting in defence, rather than getting their side of the story across. It is important for people first to understand why they are really upset and have some time to reflect on this.
Schedule a time ideally before the event or festive period. See the discussion as a positive way to learn new information and understand other perspectives. However, there are some top tips for making these discussions go well;
- Remember you will not interpret everything in the same way
- Do not curse, shout or be aggressive
- Only focus on the real issues that matter to you. Don’t bring up other issues
- Do not belittle someone’s beliefs or opinions
- Focus on your words, volume, body language and posture.
Finally, remember to listen to others. When someone else speaks, we often use this time to think of what we want to say next, rather than actually listening to what they say. Consequently, everyone ends up having arguments with themselves, with no one listening or responding. Shouting the loudest doesn’t mean your point is understood.
Personality clashes – Constructively argue at Christmas
Festive gatherings can lead to lots of arguments, simply because you are spending time with people who have very different views and personalities to your own. As you can choose your friends, not your family, you may not be used being around people with perspective so different from yours.
With politics being so polarised and current affairs having such contrasting views, you may find that Christmas Dinner is a fight over Brexit, the Government, reality TV or the monarchy! However, these can be productive and constructive arguments as long as you follow some vital rules;
- Encourage people to have different ideas without bulldozering them into seeing things your way
- Allow people to enter and leave the discussion whenever they wish to
- Take breaks and give people time to reflect and evolve the conversation, do not cover old ground time and time again
- Let the conversations take their time; don’t try to hurry the close of conversation before desserts!
- Get rid of the expectation that there will be a ‘winner’. Everyone’s opinion is valid.
How to stay sane through a family Christmas
If arguments, family feuds and bad feeling is likely during the festive period, then there are some ways you can limit the damage to yourself;
- You can only control your own happiness; there is no point trying to control environments to make others happy
- Create a dysfunctional family bingo with your friends with a prize for the first person with a full house
- Set your boundaries – this could be setting a time limit for how long you will spend at the gathering, or perhaps staying somewhere else to give you space
- Organise a debrief with a loved one – This will be a time when you can let off steam and process any issues that have been bothering you
- Give up hope of a dramatic transformation or a ‘perfect’ Christmas
- Schedule me-time and self-care to look forward to
- Remember that you love your family and friends unconditionally, greet them positively and walk away happy.
If this time of year is particularly difficult for you and you are struggling with to cope and come to terms with any family feuds, then hypnotherapy can really help. Get in touch today at email@example.com to book your free consultation to find out more about my blended therapy options and whether they are right for you.
Don’t Miss The Christmas Wellness Event – Thursday 12th December 2019
Taking place on Thursday 12th December from 6:30pm to 8:30pm, renowned aesthetic practitioner, Dr David Jack and I will hosting our second wellness event. From our successful first event, we are now focussing on all matters festive. I will be offering free mini hypnotherapy sessions while Dr David Jack will be sharing his industry secrets. Reserve your free spot today by emailing James@drdavidjack.com. Remember, places are limited so get booking today!