Tips for Managing Difficult Conversations During the Holidays

Is your favorite football team having a bad season? Has your son or daughter decided to take a year off to ‘find themselves’? Did your last ‘hot idea’ end up fizzling out? There are many topics of conversation that may make you feel uncomfortable during holiday gatherings.

Here are some tips that will help you keep a smile on your face and leave treasuring the time you spent together (instead of dreading the next occasion).

Prepare Safe Topics – Which topics of conversation are immune to conflict? Think about the things you have in common with the other guests. Planning some key talking points ahead of time can help you avoid trouble.

  • Local weather, Bei Bei, and fishing can be neutral conversation topics.

Redirect Conversations – Plan ahead for quick pivots when difficult conversations do come up. If someone starts speaking about a political subject, instead of agreeing or disagreeing, redirect the conversation to a safe topic that is somewhat related.

Rehearse Responses – If you know you will certainly be challenged on your position and you feel it is best not to avoid the conversation, but to stand your ground instead, prepare a position statement ahead of time. Then, when the moment comes, you can respond calmly and firmly with a rehearsed response.

  • Challenged on parenting decisions or lifestyle choices? Your rehearsed statement will help you stand your ground without succumbing to your emotions.

Recount Positive Memories – Tell a story that takes everyone back to a pleasant occasion you shared in the past. Give other people a chance to participate by filling in the details, and end by relating to the benefits of your gathering today.

  • Remember when we used to climb the tree in the back yard and jump down into the pile of leaves at Thanksgiving? We’ve really had some great times together.

Show Appreciation – Take a moment to reflect on difficulties that the people among you have had to deal with since the last time you were together. Share your appreciation for their perseverance and invite others to do the same.

  • After her father passed away, Julie was tasked with settling the estate, which was not an easy task.

Despite your best intentions, you may still experience moments of conflict during gatherings over the holidays. Coming prepared will lessen the impact these conflicts have on you personally. Thinking about the possible situations you may face will help you prepare for specific conversations, set your expectations, and employ strategies that keep you feeling empowered and in control.

Management Concepts wishes you and your family and friends a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Written by:
Natalie Komitsky
Leadership & Management
Media Type:

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