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How To Survive Festive Family Feuds At Christmas Time!

Written by: Nicole Posner, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


‘Tis the Season to be Jolly’, yet for some, Christmas get-togethers feel anything but jolly!

We might not feel warm and fuzzy towards certain family members, yet at this time of year, it seems an unavoidable obligation to spend the festive season with them because of peer pressure and family politics.

We are thrown together with siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins that we have managed to successfully avoid for the best part of the year, often for a valid reason! Yet on this one day, we are expected to smile through gritted teeth and play happy families.

3 steps to navigate family dynamics during Christmas

So here are 3 ways to navigate the festive season and ensure that the only thing that will be minced will be your pies and not your words.

1. Countdown to the day

Take a little time leading up to Christmas to reflect on why you are triggered by your relative’s behaviour. What specifically do they do that irritates you? Is this a long-term frustration or was there a particular incident that provoked it? If so, how did you manage that at the time? Did you ever discuss it? Often issues fester if they are unaddressed which creates a lot of ‘mind chatter’ and destructive self-talk inflaming the issue in our head over a long period of time.

Think about your role in the dynamics. What about your own behavior and how you respond. Do you react with sarcasm? Do you ignore them? Do you talk over them? Do you dismiss them? Do you just react… full stop. Every action creates a reaction which can add fuel to the smouldering embers if there is already an undercurrent bubbling away between you.

2. On the day

Having reflected on the above, you may still want to stick your turkey drumstick

where the sun doesn’t shine. But hold off!

  • If you start to feel triggered, pause, excuse yourself for a few minutes and breathe before you respond which will lower your stress response and calm you down.

  • Think of the bigger picture and the impact of an explosive reaction which will not only impact family dynamics but ultimately create an even greater rift which will be harder to repair. Let alone ruining the day for everyone else!

  • Remember that this is just one fleeting day of the year, not forever.

  • If you find your blood boiling and you are secretly seething at the very sight of your relative, try this quick trick. Think about a happy memory or an event that you are looking forward to or excited about. It serves to do two things. One, it diverts your attention and interrupts toxic thoughts and mind chatter. Two, it is a powerful ‘Mood Shifter’. Happy thoughts can trigger dopamine and elevate endorphin levels which reduce stress and anger.

3. Post Christmas

Having survived the day relatively unscathed, why not arrange a coffee post-Christmas to talk through your bugbears if you think the relationship is worth investing in. Here are a few helpful pointers.

  • Don’t talk to everyone else about it. Talk to your relative directly but with tact, respect, compassion and honesty. Others will have their own perspective which won’t necessarily be the same as yours.

  • Think about what you hope to achieve from the conversation before you begin. What would a successful outcome be for you?

  • Plan what you would like to express and prepare some notes to help you if you’re easily derailed and become tongue tied in these awkward situations.

  • Don’t think about the conversation as a challenge but rather as an opportunity for changing how you feel about your relative or interact with each other.

  • Be prepared to listen. Remember listening doesn’t mean agreeing.

  • Manage your expectations. It is unlikely the conversation will elicit an instant transformation but perhaps a little perspective will nurture the seed of change.

If you have no interest in resolving your differences…well… you survived the day and you have another 365 days to prepare yourself for next Christmas!

Want to learn more from Nicole? Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and visit her website.


Nicole Posner, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Nicole is a Communication and Conflict Expert, supporting leaders, business owners, and high-performing teams to communicate and navigate difficult conversations with confidence, courage, and compassion. She is a Consultant, Executive Conflict Coach, accredited Workplace Mediator, and Trainer and has an interest in the psychology of conflict combined with extensive experience in PR and Communications. Her clients include CEOs, Leaders, Senior Executives, and their teams across multiple sectors.

Nicole is the author of many published articles on communication and workplace conflict in the following publications: Thrive Global, SME Magazine, and HR Magazine. She was featured in COACH Magazine in 2020 and is a regular podcast guest and contributor to local radio shows discussing conflict and communication issues in the workplace. Last year she was a shortlisted finalist in the UK National Mediation Awards 2020.



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