A woman threw a cookbook at her sister-in-law and screamed, “Maybe now you can cook a holiday dinner for us sometime.”
“People become stressed during the holidays, so they’re more likely to be bothered or blow up at another person’s behavior,” says business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter. “Plus, we tend to have the same conflicts year after year that don’t get resolved.”
Pachter, author of “The Power of Positive Confrontation,” suggests using her 10 “polite and powerful” suggestions for handling holiday conflict:
1. Accept What You Can and Can’t Influence: If your father has remarried, he will bring his wife to the New Year’s brunch.
2. Ask Yourself, “Does It Really Matter?”: If you see your uncle only once a year, can you tolerate his behavior?
3. Learn to Confront Positively: If you have avoided confrontation or have confronted aggressively in the past, don’t feel bad about yourself. Most people were never taught how to be “polite and powerful.” Make it your New Year’s resolution to learn how to confront in a more positive fashion.
4. Identify the Real Issue: Is the issue that your brother isn’t hosting the holiday dinner, or that he doesn’t visit your mother in her retirement home?
5. Prepare What You Will Say: Practice saying the words out loud. Listen to how they sound. Be polite, not harsh. Don’t attack the other person with statements such as “You’re selfish” or “You’re such a cheap-skate.” These types of accusations are counterproductive and can lead to more conflict.
6. Be Clear About What You Want From the Person: If you would like your sister-in-law to contribute to the holiday dinner, be specific. “Joan, will you bring a vegetable dish on Sunday?”
7. Confront in Private: If others hear the conversation, it can be embarrassing to the other person.
8. Provide Enough Information: If you want your mother to limit the number of computer games she gives your son, tell her why. When you tell others the reason for your request, it may influence their behavior.
9. Listen to the Other Person’s Response: He or she may offer an alternative or provide an explanation for the behavior. Your sister may not be planning to fly home for the holidays because of financial difficulties she is too embarrassed to discuss.
10. And If You Don’t Get What You Want, Can You Live With the Behavior? Is it worth ending the relationship? Do the benefits of the relationship outweigh its drawbacks?
©2008 King Features Synd.