I saw a funny card on social media the other day, which I shared on my Facebook page. It got me thinking about the fact that each person has a different level of tolerance for conflict. Likewise, each family or social group also has its own level of conflict that is tolerable to them. For some people and groups, sitting around the holiday table discussing politics and arguing with other family members or friends about past wrongs (or perceived wrongs) is the highlight of their year; for people or groups, just thinking about enduring another argument with “Uncle John” makes our stomach turn, but they do it because it’s what’s expected.
Some people may seek to avoid the conflict by simply not being present, maybe they moved away or go to a different gathering on holidays. At the other end of the spectrum, some people are highly competitive and love those arguments trying to on up each other (though others at the table may not). In between those two extremes, we have others trying to accommodate the offending party and in doing so sacrifice their own needs or opinions. We also have compromisers, who seek to resolve the conflict by having everyone give up something, but this doesn’t always get at the heart of the issue. Finally, you have the collaborator. This is the person that seeks to work with the other party to really listen to their point of view and see if they can find a way to move forward together acknowledging that everyone’s point of view is important to any resolution.
I encourage you to think about how you approach conflict resolution because recognizing your tolerance for conflict (and that of your family members or others around you) and how you deal with it can go a long way toward reducing it and making holiday more pleasurable. This year when you’re sitting around the table with your family (or friends) and something comes up that is a hot button for you or your family ask yourself, “How can I change the dynamic here so that a conflict doesn’t cause me, or other members of my family, anxiety?” “Is there a way we can hear each other better?” For helpful strategies on managing anger, see my July 9, 2014 post entitled “Anger Meet Management”.
I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving!