The winter holidays are filled with family gatherings – and family gatherings are supposed to be occasions for creating lasting memories and bonding.
Unfortunately, given your previous experiences with some of your extended relatives, you’re already concerned that your next family gathering could turn into an all-out melee. Whether it’s your uncle bringing up politics, your sister lecturing you on your lifestyle or your cousin spouting racist conspiracy theories, you’re genuinely worried that there’ll be a fight once the drinks start flowing. What can you do to keep things calm and keep out of trouble?
Don’t try to win any arguments
Study after study has shown that people don’t really respond to reason, no matter how it’s presented to them. Once they’ve made up their minds about something, it’s very difficult to sway their opinions through fact-based appeals. In other words, you aren’t going to get your cousin to see the error of their ways, no matter how brilliant your arguments. Reminding yourself of this in advance can help you preserve your peace and avoid escalating the conflict.
Plan for intrusive questions and provocations
You probably have a good idea already about who will try to stomp on your boundaries or ask nosey questions, so plan ahead. Decide whether you want to deflect and change the subject (“Oh, now, we can talk about that another time. Who brought the pie?”), reinforce your limits (“I’ve already said we won’t be discussing that tonight.”) or something else. When you plan ahead, watching someone be utterly predictable can take a lot of tension out of your own response and make it easier to handle.
Know when it’s time to leave
Finally, have an exit plan ready. Keep the path to the door in mind and – if things start to get heated – grab your shoes and your coat and get out. Prioritize your own well-being over preserving appearances with a toxic family member.
If a family dispute does boil over this holiday season and you find yourself facing assault charges, do everything in your power not to compound the issue. Invoking your right to remain silent can help you protect your interests until you can find out more about your defense options.