In a little less than a week, Christmas festivities are likely to begin for many of us, and with this comes all kinds of interactions with family members. Ideally these are happy, stress-free interactions. But families are made up of human beings -- so the likelihood of a few rifts here and there are high.
This holiday season, here are a few pointers for keeping the peace with your family and enjoying a successful season of Christmas. There are plenty of ways to gather around the holiday table, even with those with whom you have a bumpy history or blatant disagreements.
1.) Accept people where they are.
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Let's get this one out of the way. Just as you are unlikely to be changed or swayed by family members on a certain point of view, they are likely to be unswayed by you as well. While this does not mean you have to agree with what others do, say or believe, you can choose to be respectful. This does not mean you are above, ahead, below or behind them -- it simply means you are at different places in your life and faith in God means faith in His purpose and plan for them -- and you!
2.) Avoid touchy subjects.
There's no avoiding the turmoil of this year's political climate. Whether or not your family agrees on politics, other touchy subjects -- someone's choice of a spouse, the ways that children are being raised, etc. -- have no place at the dinner table. Leave them at the door, or better yet let them go altogether. The holidays are not a time for divisiveness, but an opportunity to come together during a season of peace.
Leaving touchy subjects untouched can make a huge difference at your next gathering.
3.) Know the difference between agreements and expectations.
You may show up to Christmas eve expecting your mom to like your new sweater or your dad to congratulate you on your recent promotion. These expectations can quickly lead to disappointments when you realize your parents did not agree to this. While we can want or expect something so badly from someone, if it is not something to which they agreed we will likely be met with disappointment or frustration.
4.) Choose peaceful language.
The great thing about interactions with our families is that we truly have a say in how they go. We can diffuse a situation simply by choosing language that is kind and non-accusatory. If someone has a view with which you strongly disagree, fine. Ask them about it! It is a great opportunity to spread love and get to know this person even better.
5.) Assume the best.
Has your mother-in-law time and again given you a backwards compliment about your potato salad? Assume that this year, she won't. While this is not meant to counteract the "agreement vs. expectations" thought process, assuming the best allows you to simply go into the situation with a positive attitude about the person. It relieves you of any tension or the need to defend yourself.
6.) Be a peaceful person.
This can mean many things to many different people, but the idea is the same: Do not be someone who incites anger or arguments. To be peaceful does not mean to gloss over or ignore conversations and interactions that can be seen as negative. Instead, it means to respond kindly and hear what the other person has to say with respect -- making each interaction intentional.
Liz Logan lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her growing family. She is pursuing a master's degree in creative nonfiction.