Surviving the Holidays Without Being Rude or Getting Into Conflict

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I read a headline the other day that said the average person is only able to last 4 hours around relatives at the holidays.

That is pretty amazing. I think that is far worse than many years.

I believe that even if people are strongly divided, we should be able to get together with a variety of people for longer than a double feature movie, eat some food, talk, have a few drinks, and have respectful and meaningful conversations. It may take a little while to improve. We didn’t get to this point overnight. The sooner we get started, the better.

People have always had disagreements or family squabbles but it seems like everyone is struggling to get along a little more than in the past.

This holiday season dawns on a country that is very divided. A lot of people refuse to put differences aside and talk about things they have in common.

While some people seem to be looking for the slightest provocation to be offended or on the other side of it, others are on edge from trying not to offend. What side you are on depends on your views and the views of those you have to spend time with during the holiday season.

I struggle with this myself. Since I started appearing on a lot of preparedness sites, people that I was on decent or even really good terms with for 15 years decided I was not their cup of tea. Although I don’t write for political sites, people put you in the role and stereotype they choose.

I know others that have lost friendships older than I am over the state of affairs in this country.

So how does one deal with it? I am going to make some suggestions that could apply to most everyone but I want to first suggest some positive activities for the holidays before discussing methods to avoid conflict and be nice to one another regardless of differences.

Top Things To Do To Get The Most Out The Holidays and Be Nice At The Same Time

First, let’s start out with some of the positive parts of the holidays. This list right here is is enough to keep the holidays full of more positive moments for everyone.

  • Ask people how they are doing. See what their kids are up to
  • Bring good food and drinks
  • Play with the kids
  • Spend time with the older folks
  • Try to relax
  • Try to not even think about divisive topics
  • Pet the dogs and cats
  • Go for a walk with some friends or relatives if it is a nice day and you are going to be together for a decent amount of time
  • Be thankful for what you have
  • Try to find positive things to discuss
  • Engage in prayer or whatever customs your family chooses to practice.

Ways to make it easier for everyone.

Sometimes it is best to say the bare minimum needed to maintain politeness

Talking too much can lead to letting your guard down and saying something that could be a potential trigger. While you don’t want to be too cold with people, there is no reason to push it too much, especially if in the past it has been made obvious that the person really doesn’t have much desire to be around you.

Avoid overindulging in these situations

Having too much to drink can make a situation a lot worse. People tend to be more loose with their words and emotions. As much as I don’t like it, being too relaxed and at ease with some people is not a good thing. It is too easy to miss something and not be able to steer a conversation or situation in a more amiable direction. Even if you are the one being reasonable, if you are obviously intoxicated, it might look like you just caused a scene because you could.

I am not saying don’t drink at the holidays, just be responsible about it.

Consider who is attending whatever gatherings, events, and social functions and find a few people that you can talk freely with.

There is no rule saying that you have to be everyone’s best buddy or that you have to have long and enlightening conversations with all. You can do well at a gathering by concentrating your attention on a smaller group or a few people. Larger social gatherings tend to go this way anyway even in larger groups of likeminded people

Float

Moving around a bit at an event can help. This is a good way to still be social and see how everyone is doing.

Stay busy

I know people that admit that one of the biggest perks of being in charge of cooking and keeping the beverages flowing is that they can stay busy enough to not get caught up a lot in the social aspects of big gatherings with a lot of families. Is this a healthy thing? Probably not when you really get down to it but it is still better than not participating at all and isolating oneself from friends, family, and other people in general.

Offering to help out with food and planning get together is a great way to contribute and keep your mind off of any conflicts or worrying about the animosity of others. A lot of hosts are relieved that someone is offering to help them out. Plus you are actually doing something nice for everyone regardless of personal conflicts and differences and that is a healthy and good thing.

Change the subject. Try this several times. Patience is a good thing

Sometimes it can be easy to change the subject and sometimes someone is determined to not let this happen. It is worth a try. In fact, it is worth several tries. If that fails and things seem to be going towards a more heated exchange, then you may need to find a way to excuse yourself temporarily.

Saying you have to use the restroom works pretty well. This doesn’t mean you should feel like you cannot talk to this person or persons for the rest of the time you have to spend in close quarters. Excusing yourself briefly is just a way to politely diffuse the situation and keep things going more nicely for everyone.

The holidays are not the time to try to change someone else’s worldview or educate them.

Personally I think that in today’s world a lot of people have their minds made up and they have no desire to change them or learn other sides of issues so they can make a more fair and balanced choice based on facts. It is not good.

The holidays are a terrible time to even try to convince someone that they are not right or seeing something with the filter on.

If someone asks you a question then that is different but don’t go trying to lecture people you disagree with during the holidays. The holidays are at the very least supposed to be a time to catch up on positive things going on in each other’s lives and appreciate each other as much as one can. Of course, for some, it is still a religious holiday too. This time of year gets celebrated in many different ways.

Sam’s Holiday Pet Peeve: Fact-checking everything with a smartphone

I find it very rude when people feel the need to pull out their phone and fact check people on everything. Is it really that necessary to prove yourself right or pick something apart? Do people really need the satisfaction of saying “Oh I just looked it up. It is 7 years not 8.”

Sometimes a group may mutually want to look something up because both parties are talking and really want to know something. That is not as rude as the person that just does it automatically.

How about we all put the cell phones away and just have a conversation like people used to have?

Texting a lot during family events is rude unless it is really important or an emergency is going on.

Hiding within your smartphone for hours on end at family events is too common, especially with the younger crows. If someone is having a conversation via text it feels like you are interrupting them even if you are just trying to be polite. I am pretty sure that all of us can handle some time away from texting.

If you leave televisions on, be careful what you put on. Do not turn it to the news and leave it on.

I don’t care what news network you like or watch. Just don’t do it during the holidays unless you are just among a small group. There is too much potential for controversial topics to come up. If you want to ruin Christmas or New Year’s, just turn the big screen TV on to any major news network.

Put on a roaring fire scene with Christmas music when in doubt. I have seen this at a lot of people’s places and it looks really nice and festive and encourages people to talk with each other.

What to do if it really does get to be too much.

There may be a point when it becomes clear that another party is not capable of letting a matter go. This can be really hard to deal with and super embarrassing. I remember one time at Thanksgiving at a nice hotel we had a family dinner and there were a few guests. One of them caused a scene because they were mad because I did not write fiction exactly the way they would have. They considered it patronizing because I did not assume their background and knowledge about my subject matter. No matter how much I apologized it just made them madder.

Guess what I did?

I went to the bar and got a singe moonshine cocktail and let it calm down. Putting some distance between you and the other person, even if only 30 ft or going to the next room, is a good idea and far better than letting a situation get worse or saying something that you might wish you hadn’t later on.

This was the moment when I realized that as a writer, I was going to run into some people that had serious opinions about what I did and how I did it regardless of reading anything of mine. I handle people telling me how I should write and what I should write a lot better now because I realize that things like this are just going to happen. I can either roll with it and let it go or make things a lot worse.

Embrace the power of the neutral gift

If you are in doubt about what to buy for someone else then go for something everyone uses.

  • Gift cards to stores that sell everything like Amazon, Wal-mart, Target, etc.
  • Home improvement store gift cards
  • Prepaid debit cards
  • Food or beverage gifts
  • Blankets
  • Digital media gift cards such as Google Play

Treat other shoppers decently. Please don’t sacrifice your dignity to get a discount.

While Black Friday sales are often the worst, there are still times when sales and the stress of the holidays bring out the worst in people. This is why I do my shopping online. I don’t want to pick over things with people. I can sit at home in safety and peace and quiet and find nice gifts for others at a good price

There is something to be said about shopping at local stores or small stores. If you are shopping just at the big boys like Wal-Mart and Target I don’t see a lot of use in fighting big crowds on prime shopping days.

Don’t get into contests trying to outdo others with gift-giving.

The holidays shouldn’t be a contest to see who can give the most or the best presents. Give reasonable gifts and don’t get into ridiculous contests no matter what the reasons.

Take time for yourself and partner or spouse.

Giving and giving can feel good but for everyone’s sake, take some time to do something nice for yourself and spend some time with your significant other. You need some downtime during the holidays to not do a lot of anything. Don’t overload your schedule and forget this.

Dealing with being alone on the holidays can be tough too.

There are many events that are welcoming to everyone if you do a little research. If you choose to be alone or just find yourself in that position, try to do something special anyway or treat yourself to something nice.

A lot of people are really busy and have a hard time finding any time where they can just relax. The holiday season may be the time you should take a day or two just for yourself.

Of course, there are ways to keep in contact with those you cannot be around too. Video calls, cell phones, etc can make it easier to feel connected. Take the time to make a few calls or exchange gifts in the mail if that is right for your situation.

Reflect and figure out how to do better. Look at both sides of the equation.

No matter what you do or how careful you are, there is only so much you can do. If someone is really determined to be unpleasant or make scenes then you need to consider how to proceed for future events.

Many people can be very reasonable and things worked out if both parties are willing to meet each other halfway. I think that it is always worth giving people a few chances in most cases. You shouldn’t just immediately throw people out of your life even if things are a bit strained.

Relationships and social interaction are a two-way street. You need to offer the same respect and kindness in return. Don’t trigger others on purpose and push subjects just to get a rise out of someone. Being able to get along in various groups is a good survival skill during good times and bad.

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Updated Dec 11, 2019

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3 Responses to “Surviving the Holidays Without Being Rude or Getting Into Conflict”

  1. Good article, but from your bio I believe I’m at least 20 years older, and I’ve also hosted a number of 200+ person parties. Here is something I’d add to your list.
    Avoid hosting parties at your home or any place you can’t (or won’t) walk out on. If it is a large gathering, or if known troublemakers or over-indulgers are likely to attend, I prefer a public place, and preferably one which has its own security. This is worth it even for groups of half a dozen. I have gladly spent extra and/or collected contributions just to keep my private places private. Regardless of where, make sure you have a way to leave. It is the last resort to avoid stupid people. With that in mind, I always have a vehicle, even if I have to rent one, because while we live in the days of Uber, public transport is not always or immediately available. I also religiously carry a phone, firearm AND pepper spray. I’m old and wise enough to NOT want to go hands-on or use a firearm, however if all else failed I would get video, spray them, and then call 911 while I leave the immediate area. And yes, I’ve been to some interesting parties.

    Reply
  2. With some people there just doesn’t seem to be a safe topic. At Thanksgiving a friend was with family. She wanted to stay away from anything that might lead to controversy. She made a toast to freedom and prosperity thinking everyone could agree on something like that. Nope! Instantly angry and very loud, the others voiced their opinions that Americans have too much freedom and that unpopular speech and gun ownership need to be curtailed by the government. And prosperity is a sign of selfishness because wealth is meant to be equally shared. They voiced that she must be a terrible person to make such a toast. So she said, we are so blessed to be here together and to share this beautiful feast with loved ones, let’s enjoy that. Apparently ‘blessing’ lead to an equally hostile tirade about religion and a malevolent god. She was shocked at the level of anger from her family…would hate to think how it might have gone with strangers.

    Reply
  3. I have a hard time relating to this article because I’m in my late 70’s, have spent every holiday with relatives on one side or the other of the family, and have never run into these problems. We’ve spent 4-6 hrs. together on each occasion and everyone has always been cheerful and pleasant. Most of my friends have had similarly pleasant holidays. The only ones who haven’t are those who are estranged from their kids or other family members, so don’t see them at all. It amazes me that others have so much discord on these occasions. I obviously should be very thankful for my relatives and friends!

    Reply

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