The holiday season is upon us! From Thanksgiving to Christmas to Hanukkah, these couple of months are bound to find you spending time with family — although sometimes it may be more family time than you would like. We love our families, but sometimes they can be difficult. Not all of us agree on politics, lifestyle choices, or religion. However, that shouldn’t put a damper on the holiday cheer.

Here are some tips to deal with difficult family members this holiday season:

#1 Anticipate areas of conflict and prepare responses ahead of time.

Sometimes you need to be empathetic, “I appreciate you wanting to uphold this tradition, but I will not participate in it this year,” and sometimes you need to shut it down, “We have talked about this before and know we don’t agree on it. Let’s not ruin our time together by bickering about it again.” Either way, coming up with a response in advance can keep you from getting defensive or being drawn into a conversation you have no desire to be in.

#2 Set boundaries and pick your battles.

While some issues should be addressed, other topics will only lead to more arguing. Decide ahead of time what you can and can’t compromise on and come up with mental phrases to reassure yourself when dealing with the difficult compromises.

#3 If possible, use the buddy system.

Difficult situations are usually easier when you have someone by your side. If possible, bring along a friend or significant other to family gatherings or hang out with the family member you get along best with. Whoever it may be, use this “safe person” as a buffer.

#4 Practice being assertive

Do not feel bad about respectfully stating your needs or setting boundaries. Rather than not saying anything or angrily expressing them, you can keep the lines open for healthy, open communication.

#5 If needed, remove yourself from the situation.

If things get too heated, don’t hesitate to take a walk or spend a few minutes alone in another part of the house. Tempers can flare easily, and sometimes everyone just needs to take a few steps back from the situation. Return when you and the other person have had time to calm down.

#6 Know that it’s okay to say “no.”

Sometimes you just need to say “no” to a family gathering, and that’s okay. Your mental and emotional well being is just as important as upholding tradition or appeasing people.

Whatever your plans are for this holiday season, if you do spend time with difficult loved ones, we hope these tips can help you have a joyful, relaxing time. And if they’re too difficult, considering giving them the gift of Conflict-Wise, our anger management course, this Christmas! Call us at (888) 810-7990 or visit our website to find out more.

Happy Holidays!