Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time with family and friends, but far too often they’re loaded with tension and arguing. Old resentments rise to the surface, unresolved issues spark an explosion, or we simply spend enough time together to get on each others’ nerves. Whatever the case may be, if you’re looking for a harmonious holiday, these five steps (based on emotionally-focused therapy) for Christmas conflict resolution will help if mindfully applied, not only during this hectic time of year but year-round as well.
Christmas conflict resolution step one: Recognize your body’s signs of anger.
All of us get angry, and sometimes our anger gets out of hand. We say and do things that we later regret, or we shut down and push others away; neither of these helps us to get the closeness we want. Our bodies actually warn us that this is about to happen with signs like accelerated heart rate, feeling “hot,” shallow breathing, clenched fists and jaws, and more. How does your body let you know that you’re angry? Pay attention, because that’s your cue to move to the next step.
Christmas conflict resolution step two: Stop and calm down.
Get some exercise. Listen to music that calms you. Take a hot shower. Pray or meditate. Drink some cocoa or eggnog. Especially effective is taking slow, deep breaths; this will increase blood flow and oxygen to your brain, helping you to think more clearly.
Christmas conflict resolution step three: Identify the vulnerable emotion underneath the anger.
All anger is actually a vulnerable emotion in disguise. If someone insults you, underneath the anger you feel is hurt. If your teen walks in three hours past curfew, under your anger is fear and worry. If someone publicly chastens you, under your anger is embarrassment.
Christmas conflict resolution step four: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
When I’m upset, I’m 100 percent certain that I’m right and the other person is wrong. It’s only after I calm down (step two) that I can start to see things from the other person’s point of view. Often I realize that I’ve made mistakes that need correcting and apologizing for. It’s important to realize that everyone’s behavior makes sense to them, so if I think someone’s being an idiot, irrational, or a jerk, it often means I’m not trying hard enough to understand their perspective. Even if I disagree with — and can’t condone — the other person’s words or behavior, I can always relate to the emotions they’re experiencing.
Christmas conflict resolution step five: Express steps three and four.
Tell others who might’ve caused you discomfort what you imagine their experience to be like without claiming to know what they’re going through. Trust them with your vulnerable emotion instead of manipulating them with anger; letting someone know that you’re hurt, scared, sad or embarrassed often draws them near, while anger always pushes them away.
Happy holidays and Merry Christmas! If your family needs a little extra help, give me a call at (435) 215-6113.