S and how to pre­pare for FAM­ILY GATH­ER­INGS

Imperial Valley Press - - FAMILY - BIGSTOCK.COM BY MELISSA ERICK­SON More Con­tent Now

ea­sonal gath­er­ings with fam­ily and friends should be filled with love, ad­mi­ra­tion and re­spect for each other, yet too of­ten hol­i­day get-to­geth­ers dis­solve into dis­agree­ments ar­gu­ments. Some sim­ple tech­niques can help stop the bick­er­ing and im­prove fam­ily dy­nam­ics.

set your ex­pec­ta­tions

Con­tentious is­sues like pol­i­tics or cli­mate change can turn things, but so can more per­sonal con­cerns such as si­b­ling ri­valry among adults or money is­sues.

“Be­fore you get to the hol­i­day din­ner ta­ble, think about what your ex­pec­ta­tions are,” said Joshua Klapow, clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Alabama at Birm­ing­ham and host of the Kurre and Klapow Show (kand­kshow.com). “Be re­al­is­tic. Is it to have a good time cel­e­brat­ing to­gether? If the an­swer is ‘yes,’ then dis­re­gard thoughts of get­ting into a con­tentious con­ver­sa­tion.”

That’s eas­ier said than done, but as an adult know that you have the abil­ity not to en­gage, Klapow said. “Don’t al­low your­self to be baited,” he said.

If you feel it’s nec­es­sary to en­ter into an ar­gu­ment, ask your­self why.

“Most peo­ple will say they’re stand­ing up for them­selves or their be­liefs, but is a hol­i­day gath­er­ing the right time?” Klapow asked.

Es­tab­lish ground rules

Civil con­ver­sa­tions can be had on dif­fi­cult top­ics, but for the best re­sults, move for­ward af­ter a set of ground rules has been laid out, said Todd Schenk, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the Vir­ginia Tech School of Pub­lic and In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs. Th­ese can in­clude: no per­sonal at­tacks, be thought­ful in the lan­guage you use and non-ver­bal cues you send, de­scribe your views while avoid­ing as­sump­tions about oth­ers, and do not in­ter­rupt — only one per­son should speak at a time.

Dif­fer­ing opin­ions on so­cial, po­lit­i­cal or per­sonal is­sues are ac­cept­able, and de­bate is OK, Schenk said. Prob­lems emerge when things get per­sonal, such as “If you don’t be­lieve in cli­mate change, you’re an idiot!”

“Don’t make it about the other per­son, their fail­ures or short­com­ings,” Schenk said.

Have an es­cape plan

It’s en­tirely ac­cept­able to come pre­pared with what you will say, such as “I don’t want to talk pol­i­tics,” so you will not be drawn into an ar­gu­ment, Schenk said. Know that you may get some eye-rolling or some push­back.

If it’s too much, be pre­pared with a plan of es­cape, Schenk said. That could be get­ting up for a cof­fee, to

play with nieces or neph­ews, or to watch a foot­ball game. Don’t leave in a huff; just po­litely ex­cuse your­self. “It’s a tem­po­rary dis­en­gage­ment. You don’t have to con­trol a sit­u­a­tion. You don’t have to stop it, but you do have to con­trol your­self,” he said.

Be neu­tral if nice is too hard

If there’s some­one you’ve had a dis­agree­ment with in the past, a hol­i­day gath­er­ing may not be the time to bury the hatchet, Schenk said. A sim­ple “Hi, nice to see you” can keep things cor­dial.

If you do want to use the hol­i­days to rec­on­cile or make amends, don’t do it ca­su­ally, Schenk said.

“Carve out some one-on-one time and pull the other per­son aside,” he said.

Pay at­ten­tion to fa­tigue

A fam­ily gath­er­ing of three to five hours is a sig­nif­i­cant amount of so­cial in­ter­ac­tion.

“Pay at­ten­tion to your own fa­tigue level. If you’re tired, if you ate too much or may have been drink­ing, it’s the wrong time to go for a deep con­ver­sa­tion,” Schenk said.

While fam­ily mem­bers of­ten feel they have to en­dure what­ever hap­pens, no one de­serves to be picked on or at­tacked.

“Who­ever is pick­ing the fight is al­ways in the wrong,” Schenk said.

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