8 tips for keeping the peace

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it, and along with cooking and traveling, there can be a certain level of stress associated with managing family time. This can be especially true if you have challenging relationships with certain relatives. Fortunately, you can use some of the same helpful strategies from your work environment to navigate your holiday dinners. To help, I’m sharing some of the best ways I know to keep things peaceful during stressful times. Use these to not only survive Thanksgiving dinner but to have a truly peaceful holiday:

Keep your mind open and listen

When it comes to people skills, The Muse reports that those who communicate well don’t have a magic recipe for doing so. Mainly, people who are the best communicators keep their mind open while maintaining a positive attitude. When your family members talk to you, be sure to listen. Use active listening techniques to make sure they know they are being heard.

Avoid talking in circles

If the conversations tend to circle back to the same subjects when you get together with your family at holiday season events, you can stop this from happening by staying calm and expressing your views respectfully. If you’re getting worked up, disengage from the conversation and complete a dinner task or begin speaking to someone else. Don’t yell or use derogatory language. Instead, express your concerns calmly and with clarity.

Have a few conversation starters in mind

When it comes to having discussions with family, these conversations are often about what the kids are doing and any job changes that may have occurred. Try to ask off-the-wall questions that are likely to start interesting conversations. For instance, ask your uncle if he has any apps on his phone that he couldn’t live without or whether he has any podcast recommendations for your morning commute. Ask your grandmother about the strangest thing she’s ever eaten or what her go-to food is when she wants comfort cuisine. With questions like these, you’ll not only get your relatives to share interesting information with you, but you may also draw other family members into the discussion.

Don’t let serial interrupters control the conversation

If your family includes members who interrupt everything said by you or anyone else, then step up and stop them from doing so. If you notice this is happening to another member of your family, address the situation directly. One way to stop the person is to ask questions. Then, expand on the answer. This will let you take the conversation back without being confrontational.

While I recommend that you deal with serial interrupters, if someone insists on interrupting every conversation, it may be best to let it go. For instance when a member of your family brings up politics, you can ask questions, but keep things friendly and know when it’s time to take a step back. Holiday dinners are not the time to let things get heated.

Disagree without causing drama

With family, it’s common to disagree. But when you’re enjoying a dinner together, try to do so without causing drama. One way to do this is by knowing your audience and mirroring their language. For instance, if you have a contentious relationship with a member of your family who argues with you by using logic, use facts during your discussions with them. When it comes to people who are emotionally driven, use feelings. For instance, tell them that you have concerns or are worried. Be sure to express a willingness to understand their side and why they feel the way that they do. By doing this, you may even discover that you have common ground.

Keep the peace with fun

The best way to keep the peace during Thanksgiving is to have fun. Sing songs, organize a talent show or play noncompetitive games. Silly hats or funny-themed props are likely to put everyone in a good mood, while music and dancing are a great way to get family and friends to relax. Consider using a bit of structure, as it inspires positive interactions in large gatherings. Also, action-oriented gatherings let everyone know they can relax and unwind.

Simplify the holiday

For most families, Thanksgiving is a preparation-heavy holiday, which can increase the level of tension and anxiety. This year, keep the peace by making it as simple as possible. Be sure to share the cooking responsibilities or chip in and have the meal catered. Plan a dinner that includes only the essentials. If you’re the only one who eats the cranberries, it might be time to retire the dish from this year’s dinner. Also, consider divvying up the cleanup tasks. Several people can clear the table while several other people wash, dry and put the dishes away.

Do your best to bury the hatchet

Nothing will prevent peace and increase feelings of contention faster than sinking into dysfunctional interactions. This Thanksgiving, try to let go of changing anyone else’s thoughts, feelings and actions. Sit back and observe the event instead of putting yourself in the middle of it. Resolve not to engage in taunts or negative comments. Also, work to embody the spirit of forgiveness instead of freeing your inner-warrior. I know it isn’t easy to simply let unfair or unwarranted comments go, but if you can manage it, you’ll free yourself from the kind of unpleasant emotions that trap your mind.

This year, enter the holiday season with an open mind and a positive attitude. If you do, you’re sure to have a more peaceful Thanksgiving holiday, one that involves spending enjoyable time with your family.

Rose Caiola
Inspired. Rewired.


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