The big question is whether you want to diffuse, accommodate or resolve a problem. Here’s the question to ask yourself; How important is the relationship and how important is the goal?
If it’s your spouse, it’s an important relationship. If it’s Great Aunt Matilda who insists every year that you do your reindeer imitations from childhood, it may not be worth the trouble. If the other party is not that interested in the relationship and they would never be interested in establishing a goal together…you may not be able to successfully come to a mutually agreeable conclusion.
But, for those instances when it does matter follow these tips:
1) Identify the common goal. Take your eyes off the conflict and focus on a goal you agree upon. Perhaps no one wants to clean up after a big dinner, but it needs to get done. You can agree on the goal of not leaving the clean up mess to one member of the family.
2) Define the conflict. Describe actions without using labels, explaining feelings and facts.
In the cleaning up issue- don’t throw out the words inconsiderate, lazy and rude. It just won’t get you to your goal!
3) Listen without interruptions. Oh, that can be a tough one, right? Real listening means you are not just planning what you are going to be saying next. Look for areas of agreement and practice empathy for their viewpoint.
4) Restate their position. Paraphrase what you think you heard them say, this helps you with that empathy part of the previous point. You may also discover you are interpreting what they are saying incorrectly. Give them a chance to state if you did hear them correctly.
5) Make a plan of action to end the conflict. Come up with some ideas of how to solve the problem together. Have some fun with it. Talk about the ways you can act differently in the future to prevent a repeat of the same conflict. Brainstorm a solution!
You will probably have some adjustment of this plan based on the specific situation and people involved, but if you will follow the tenants, you will be much better off than just walking away in anger. Arguments are caused by people and arguments can be controlled and managed by people too. Make it a goal of your holiday season to switch up any arguing patterns in your family. That can help restore the Merry to Merry Christmas.
What about your family? Has arguing wrecked your holiday joy in the past?