By RYLEE MOORE
The holiday season can spread joy and delight as people gather together to celebrate, but for some, this season is full of stress and tension. Several people love the holidays and spending time with their families, while others dread getting together with family and the exhaustion it brings.
It’s hard to celebrate when people are arguing. Some of the topics people commonly fight about include politics, life choices and parenting styles. Experts say the holidays are not the best time for political debates or criticism and disapproval of life choices, but in many families, conflict tends to arise.
Courtney Milleson is an Amarillo College speech professor whose interpersonal communication classes teach students to resolve conflict. “A good tip is to use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements,” Milleson said. She added that this approach will diffuse the situation instead of creating defensiveness.
“Another thing is being very specific about what you’re arguing about. Arguing about more than what the current problem is isn’t healthy,” said Milleson.
“Arguing about past grudges never ends well and avoiding the problem isn’t a good tactic either,” she said. “Acknowledging the problem and setting your boundaries” is more effective according to Milleson. Using these techniques won’t prevent conflicts, but can be used as tools to get through the conflict.
Dr. Jeffery Kee, an AC psychology professor, said that people can improve the way they handle holiday stress and family communication. “The primary point to drive home is that people need to learn and apply the principles of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) in order to truly cope more effectively with stressful situations.
REBT shows us how we can substantially reduce our stress by teaching us to change our irrational, self-defeating beliefs and attitudes that we hold about ourselves, others and the world,” Kee said. He pointed out that it can be hard to have a rational argument when thought and emotions are coming from an irrational mindset. It’s also important to remember that the other person is the only one who can control their thoughts, behaviors and rationality.
Kee said that to try to convince someone of something to prove a point is not productive. This is why most arguments are never resolved. Being rational, not attacking the other person and setting boundaries are essential tactics to get through the holiday season without family relationships being ruined, he said, adding that these are not “cure all” solutions, but can help with resolving or preventing issues.