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Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, I’ve always loved planning the guest list, side dishes, and dessert, but for some people it can be stressful and un-enjoyable; the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to be. Which got me thinking about the relationships we have, not only with immediate family but also with the friends who become your family and what happens when you bring them all together for one big feast.
Anytime you gather a big group of people together, the potential for conflict is greater. There are different opinions, feelings, experiences, perfect for conversations and perfect for tensions to arise. With Thanksgiving and the holidays right around the corner I consulted with two psychologists who share their knowledge and the best ways to find some balance in overcoming holiday conflicts and pressure.
Keeping the mood light, by telling stories or jokes gets people smiling and enjoying themselves. It also sparks the conversation, creating an air of inclusivity. “To ease the tension, be strategic about when and where you deal with harder topics. Keep difficult conversations at bay during potentially high-drama events,” says Rachel Whalley owner of Healing for Good Girls. So, although talking about your pets may be one of your favorite topics, not everyone understands nor cares. Keep it light so everyone feels welcome and engaged.
Compliments are another way to keep the mood light because everyone wants to feel important and special. Those feelings are often the first to get lost among the shopping lists, tight schedules and to do’s. When going into the holiday season, and this is a big one for me – the more the merrier – but take the time to notice the details.
When conflict does invariably arise, “The main thing to keep in mind is that conflict happens and is often most hurtful between individuals who really do care about one another. Successful resolution of conflict between people who care for one another is often a catalyst for deeper and stronger relationships”, says Matthew De Haan, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Letting go of the urge to lash out right then and there can seem like an impossible task to overcome, but doing so will only lead to stronger relationships in the end.
For Rick and I, the tricky part of hosting twenty or more people during the holidays, is seating them all. We like the feeling of having everyone at one table, so we have refined our seating arrangement to include the use of our dining table and a well-built table made of scrap lumber, complete with leaves. Once we throw matching tablecloths over them and add place settings, candles, and flowers, they look beautiful. Then we can all sit down, say grace, and enjoy the bounty.
A big thank you to Rachel and Matthew for contributing and if you would like more advice for dealing with conflict reach out to:
Rachel Whalley, MA, MFA, LMHCA
Healing for Good Girls
Matthew De Haan, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
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