Families. You don’t get to choose them. And, sometimes, things get fraught. Particularly after an event like Christmas when you feel compelled to spend extended time in each others’ space. Family arguments happen and, if not resolved at the time, can fester.
For various reasons, this can be a difficult and relationships may end up fractured and strained – especially with the pressure placed on having the ‘perfect’ day.
If this is a situation you recognise, this article provides advice on how to diffuse the situation and resolve those family arguments in a way that works for everyone.
Steps to resolve family arguments
Let the dust settle
In the first instance, give the other family members some space. Often, things can be said in the heat of the moment, or under the influence of alcohol, which do not reflect a person’s true thoughts or feelings. Allowing time to sleep on it, recover, and reflect can offer a fresh perspective on heated situations.
When texting or messaging with family members on social media, it’s good to allow at least five minutes before responding to them. Try to think carefully about your responses, rather than reacting immediately. You might find that you read something into the initial message that wasn’t really there.
Find common ground
It’s not uncommon to find gathering with family for Christmas tricky – especially if it involved travelled long distances and being with relations for extended periods. Especially when you are used to your own privacy, space and household rules.
If things are a bit awkward after family arguments, focus on a common interest when trying to repair or rebuild that relationship. Suggest an activity that you could do together or as a group. Something activity-based that you know the person will enjoy will show them that you see them as a person. Whilst you are busy engaging in that activity there is less pressure to engage ‘formally’ in the difficult discussions. It can be more of a casual conversation than a major confrontation.
If you want to heal a rift, it’s essential to approach the situation with empathy, patience, and a willingness to mend fences. Be prepared to forgive. That doesn’t mean condoning or forgetting past actions, but rather choosing to let go of the resentment and anger that might linger.
Encourage family members to express their feelings and concerns, and be prepared to forgive and ask for forgiveness in return. This mutual act of forgiveness can be liberating and create a fresh start for the relationship. Keep in mind that healing takes time, so be patient as
everyone involved works through their emotions.
Use conflict resolution skills
But don’t be afraid to have difficult discussions after family arguments, either. Just be mindful of your approach and wording.
If you have been upset, speak out, but do not blame the person for how you feel or how you reacted at the time. Instead, try using an ‘I’ sentence. For example. ‘I feel XYZ when you XYZ. In the future, I would prefer it if XYZ’. Don’t be afraid to tell your loved ones what you need from them, and ask what they need from you in return.
And don’t forget to say sorry, too. If you reacted badly in a situation, or need to make apologies, do so. Don’t make excuses, a simple ‘I am sorry’ goes a long way.
Establish boundaries and expectations
To prevent future conflicts and maintain a healthy relationship going forwards, it’s essential to establish some clear boundaries and expectations.
Discuss and agree upon acceptable behaviours, communication styles and ways to address conflicts constructively. Setting these boundaries provides a framework for a more harmonious relationship in the future and ensures that everyone’s needs and concerns are considered.