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Using Your Mediation Skills to Survive New Years’ Parties

Ah yes….the season is here. Maybe it’s even already started for you; Work parties, family gatherings, functions with friends, and on and on. It’s a festive season, lots of food, drinks, and maybe even some presents here and there. Sing songs, drink spiked hot chocolate, eggnog, the act of giving, family traditions, Christmas trees and lights, etc, etc, etc. You get the point. It’s a happy time of year.

Or is it? Families getting together are often a huge source of conflict for people. Your mother-in-law makes a crack about your job, your Uncle snubs you, Grandma drinks too much eggnog, your brother won’t shut up, and the list goes on and on. Sound familiar? Family gatherings can often bring anxiety, nerves, and uncover many new layers of conflict. Maybe it’s cramming that many people into a small space for a while, or maybe it’s actually seeing that family member for the first time in _______.

I don’t want you feeling this way for this Christmas so here are 5 tips to get through these upcoming weeks – and who knows? Maybe you’ll even crack a smile or two this season :).

1. Mentally Prepare:  You know your going into this situation, so why not prepare?? I don’t mean preparation like drink a whole bunch beer so everything just “rolls off your back” but prepare for your situation. If you know that your mom is going to make comments about your lack of a husband, then prepare some responses. If you know that your uncle is going to be generally rude and confrontational then run through some of the things that he might say…and if that doesn’t work, make sure you brush up on your ninja karate moves.

2. Bring a Co-Conspirator: This could be a spouse, boyfriend, friend, child, anyone. Go in with a plan, use a code word, a specific “escape” time, talk with the person your bringing about how you can both get out unscathed. Have them be a support person for you. Someone that is going to keep you emotionally/mentally strong. Often times when we bring another person we get that added confidence. If you bring someone that knows you fairly well, they’ll be able to keep you calm, balanced and when in doubt…they’ll have a good excuse of why you need to leave!

3. Go to your Balcony: When someone makes a snide or off-the-cuff remark then go to your “balcony” before you respond. Create yourself a happy place to go to in your mind, maybe that’s sitting in a hot tub with a glass of wine (now that’s happy!) or running through an open field of daisies, I don’t know, but create a happy place for you to go so that your responses aren’t getting you in trouble. Some people find it helpful to count to 10 before responding, so you can always try that as well. Before you respond, think about what you are going to say and make sure that you are in a good “head-space” before responding. You might have to actually go out to the physical balcony before that happens, but you know yourself the best, so do what you need to do.

4. Take a Break: Sometimes you just need a break from the 20 questions from family, or the comments, or whatever else. So take one! Excuse yourself and go stand outside, hide out in the bathroom for a few minutes, offer to go grab the groceries that are needed, rejuvenate yourself and your attitude before joining the crowd again. You may not be able to control other people but you are responsible for yourself, so make sure you take the time that you need.

5. Make Lemonade: Smiling makes you feel better: You know the old saying don’t you? When life hands you a lemon – make lemonade! This won’t be easy, but try and see the sunshine at the end of the tunnel. Try reframing things in your own mind; He’s bothering me because he loves me or they are making fun of me because they secretly want ______, like I already have…you get the picture. Also, never underestimate the power of a smile. Smiles are infectious and they will put you in a better mood. Consider that your “poker face”….keep smiling, and you’ll have them smiling with you in no time!

What strategies or tips would you add to this list?


Jason Dykstra

Jason is a Conflict Management Specialist who is helping organizations and congregations move from conflict situations to creative solutions. He specializes in relational and communication issues and uses his experience and training in mediation, group facilitation, conflict management coaching, speaking and teaching to aid you and your surroundings to better… MORE >

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