Navigating Conflict At Christmas

Starting way back with Halloween and extending all the way to Christmas, “the holiday season” is known as a time of joy and cheer. There’s a magic in the air, people seem more smiley in the stores, and the near-constant Christmas music helps encourage the “jolliness” of the season.

Certainly, this time of year can be full of fun and joy, but it can also be a time of great stress, resentment and even conflict as we give and receive gifts, host visitors, attend parties, hang lights, spend money and hustle here and there with a seemingly never-ending to-do list. Ironically, “the most wonderful time of the year” can end up being the most tense time of year for many.

But if there’s one thing we know at Prism (don’t worry— there’s way more than one!) it’s conflict management, because it’s what we do everyday. We walk with people through their own unique conflicts, we listen to their stories, and we help give them a map that they can use to find their way from where they are, to where they want to be.

The approach we use in the mediation room is no different than the approach we use at home when our spouse is upset that we still didn’t hang the lights like they asked. It’s no different than how we handle that spat about who “forgot” to tell us about the holiday party tonight or who “never mentioned” it. The attitude we have when we’re impatient with a member of a mediation is the same attitude we (try to) have when we’re impatient with a cashier. 

In short, the way we approach conflict in our work, is the same way we approach conflict in our lives: with care and respect.

As we experience the occasional Christmas Conflict with our spouses, kids, coworkers, neighbors, or the unbelievably slow customer in front of us in line, we extend the same care and respect that we use in our mediations.

Some things we try to practice in conflicts inside and outside of our work are:

  • truly listening to the other person’s story
    Whether it’s “true” or not, it is this person’s reality and it’s true for them. Listening and acknowledging their perspective is key.
    • “I would be upset too if a Christmas party was sprung on me at the last minute, too.”
  • validating feelings instead of trying to “logic” them away
    Spoiler alert: it’s not about the lights! It’s about the feeling. And no amount of logic is going to help that feeling go away.
    • “I’m sorry you feel alone in decorating the house. How can I help you?”
  • asking questions rather than giving demands
    Leading people to a solution is much more effective than telling them what they “should” do.
    • “Could you try to talk to your Mom about it so we don’t repeat last year?”

Although we hope your holiday is free of conflict and filled with that special Christmas joy and cheer, should you find yourself in a scuffle, we hope these thoughts come in handy, this season and after!

Happy Holidays to you and yours!