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How To Avoid Conflict This Christmas

BY MAHI K

If you’ve got a short temper and are prone to getting a little scrappy, here’s how you can keep the peace this Christmas.

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1 December 2022

Tis’ the season, right? Christmas, a time filled with joy, family, love, presents, eating a shit tonne of food.

Pinch and a punch for the first of the month. Yup… it’s officially December 1. Tis’ the season where all you hear in the background is Mariah Carey. Where has this year gone? I have no clue, but the silly season is by far one of the best seasons of the year.

Although I’m not Christian, I understand and appreciate the premise of Christmas and that it’s really a time to celebrate the people that you love, eat a lot of good food and come together. Interestingly enough, until Covid, my family hadn’t really been together most Christmases as we’d usually be travelling (oftentimes separately) given that this is when most workplaces are forced to shut down. One thing that Covid really made me appreciate ( silver-lining, some would say) was the fact that I actually got to have two years consecutively of cooking food with my family and my then boyfriend’s family, and spending the days with them. It’s definitely something I’ll never take for granted and appreciate so much.

In saying that, although Christmas is all about positivity (Alexa, play “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams), with the amount of extended family gathering in a short space, the in-laws and in-law siblings critiquing you and your every move, the financial burden of buying every Tom, Dick and Harry a gift and the mere fact that you need to be present and show face to so many different people… Well, it can get a bit frustrating, amass a lot of pressure, make you feel claustrophobic and almost resent it a little.

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So, if you’re like me and are prone to getting a little scrappy at the first sign of discontent or what sounds like a snarky remark, here are my 3 top tips to avoiding conflict this Christmas and keeping the peace:

1. Establish boundaries by planning ahead and communicating clearly

Sometimes, the season can get extremely overwhelming. Having to run between Christmas breakfast with your family, Christmas lunch with your boyfriend’s family and Christmas barbecue dinner with your friends can get slightly overwhelming. Having back to back get togethers can also put so much pressure on you if you’re trying to take meals to each of these gatherings each time.

Difficult family members or friends can be menacing, so for me, it’s important to communicate and be very clear about how long we’ll be together, who will be responsible for what aspects, and when it may end. I think that setting clear expectations in terms of who will be bringing what to each place (i.e., a Shakshuka to Christmas breakfast, a pavlova to Christmas lunch and sausages for the barbecue!) is fair and just decreases the chance of any arguments. And if you’re a serial organiser, it also irons out any kinks ahead of time. That way, you’ll walk in knowing that if anyone does have a problem, they’re the toxic ones, and you get to leave in a bit anyway.

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2. Shorten your shopping list

Look, I love Christmas as much as the next girl. I love getting presents, and I sure love giving them because your friends and family always look extremely stoked. But… is it feasible to do 3 different friendship groups, and buy presents for 27 family members if you include both your immediate family and your boyfriend’s family? No. I’m not a millionaire, and not to mention, the effort and time investment that needs to go into shopping for each of these.

So, if you don’t really want to buy a gift for whichever uncle you haven’t seen in 4 years, then revert back to tip number 1 above - set clear boundaries and only buy presents for people that you’re close to, not all the hoards of extended family members. Alternatively, you can suggest doing secret santa’s or dirty santa’s for any extended gatherings. My rule? If I wouldn’t go out with you for a walk or a coffee or to get dinner, then you don’t make the present cut.

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3. Take the high road

Even if somebody does say something extremely fucking outlandish like “Oh! You’ve gotten a little fat” (a classic from any ethnic people who have no filter), just take the high road. You don’t need to react. How somebody speaks to you is a direct reflection of themselves, and not you. How you choose to react though, well that’s what will be remembered. Vent about it to your man on the way out. Shit, vent to him all night if you need to, but take the high road for any snarkiness or subtle digs and you’ll be remembered as the classy queen this Christmas.

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4. Avoid contentious table topics

Avoid talking about things where opinions can diverge. This is a non-exhaustive list but things like:

Religion - I am spiritual, but don’t know if I’m religious. To avoid pissing ANYONE off I tend to keep my mouth absolutely shut when this one comes up.

Sexuality/ Sexual orientation - I know we’re all thinking it, so I’ll just say it. To avoid mass generalisation, the older generation have some narrow minded view on sexuality and gender. I once had a boyfriend’s older family member say something extremely homophobic which made me choke out my water.

Political views: Us millennials and Gen Zs are the most liberal generations to exist. If we have an extremely conservative old grandpa harping on about something it’s just not going to work is it.

My advice is to keep it relatively light hearted, keep the conversation generally positive and if one of these things do come up then make an effort straight away to steer it away.

Here’s hoping that you avoid friction this holiday season!

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