As we approach the festive season, families look forward to spending more time together away from work and school stresses.
However, more time together creates more opportunities for tension and disagreements to occur.
One in six families admits to family arguments during the festive period. What’s more, research suggests that the first argument on Christmas Day takes place as early as 10:13 am!
So, suppose you’re trying to keep the peace or trying to ensure your home stays harmonious during the school holidays.
In that case, the key is not to brush over or avoid arguments but find ways that everyone in the home can express themselves through positive disagreement.
So, how can you diffuse the situation and turn the disagreement into a positive conversation if an argument is brewing?
Let everyone have their say
Arguments can evolve when people feel like they’re not being heard. Voices can be raised to try and get their point across.
You can help to diffuse this by ensuring everyone in the situation has time to express their opinions.
This means each person takes it in turns to talk, but when they’re not talking, it is important to listen too.
Often arguments come from misunderstandings, so if you can, get your family into the habit of active listening and checking for understanding before proceeding with their viewpoint, it can become a more reasoned discussion.
Use phrases such as:
- “What I hear you are saying is X; is that correct?”
- “Thanks for sharing your point of view. From this, I understand that you feel X.”
- “This makes sense as I hear you feel X. Does that sound right?”
If you can encourage everyone in the conversation to use this approach, it can help to improve listening skills and diffuse arguments that brew from misunderstanding.
It also helps to eliminate the bad habit in arguments of simply waiting your turn to speak rather than listening to what the other person has to say.
As the adult in this situation, this does mean leading by example. So, make sure you’re fully listening to the child speaking, using eye contact and stopping what you’re doing.
Ensure you don’t interrupt when they’re talking!
Create an environment for negotiation
In many cases, an argument happens because emotions are high and need release.
A great way to diffuse this situation is to get everyone to state what they want from the argument.
Sometimes it’s as simple as being heard or a way to show frustration. Sometimes, it’s about getting the desired outcome.
Ask questions such as;
- What outcome would you like from this situation?
- What do you think the best resolution for this argument would be?
- What do you need from this discussion?
When you ask these questions, you can cut through to any underlying issues that are the real cause of the argument or upset.
The tone of voice you use with this is important. An open, calm manner will help the other person to open up.
If you can, try to slow the tempo of the conversation too. A few breaths can help the other person to feel calm before reacting and create much-needed thinking time.
When everyone has shared their ideal outcome, look for common ground or ways to resolve the situation where everyone can get what they need.
Validate emotions, but focus on I statements
Emotions are a normal response mechanism, and it is important to recognise and validate these emotions.
So often, adults can dismiss a child’s emotions, telling them not to feel a certain way.
However, a more constructive way to approach this is to show that you understand their emotions and ask questions to find out why they feel that way.
Use approaches such as:
- I see that X happened; how is this making you feel?
- How do you think they’re feeling about this?
- I understand you feel that way, but it wasn’t my intention to cause this reaction
If you can, help them to phrase their points of view with ‘I feel’ or ‘I think’ statements.
This way, they can express their emotions without making it personal about the other person in the disagreement.
It helps to move from a blame game to a personal acceptance of their own thoughts, feelings and actions.
Surviving the festive disagreements
Learning how to disagree positively can take time as it’s a new approach, but using these strategies and questions can help to get to the real heart of the matter and help individuals to figure out what they want from the situation and what needs/values they want to prioritise.
This can be a vital lifelong skill of picking your battles and considering the outcome of an argument before getting into one.
However, if family arguments are causing a real upset in your home, professional coaching can be a vital tool for young people to learn how to process and manage emotions and communicate well without conflict.
To find out more, reach out to our head coach Karen for a free communication consultation.