Most people report having a few relatives who like to complain, argue, fuss, or be negative. And, some might have a short fuse, being quick to get angry or upset. Understand that the stimulation or pressure of having a lot of people around, such as at a holiday like Thanksgiving, can induce stress in certain individuals. And, if alcohol is in the mix, tensions may increase. But there are some ways to avoid getting caught up in Thanksgiving Day drama. Here are some helpful tips:
- Gracefully accept that’s how they are – Understand that Aunt Mildred doesn’t have a fondness for children or that Uncle Harry has single-minded political views. Expect that they may complain that your children are too loud or whine about those who favor voter ID. You may find greater inner peace by acknowledging that that’s how they are and not letting it bother you.
- Whenever possible, avoid hot topics – When Aunt Mildred complains that kids nowadays have less manners than prior generations, or Uncle Harry argues that the borders should be wide open, don’t bother engaging in counterarguments. The purpose of engaging in discussions is to express and exchange thoughts and ideas. However, it’s nearly impossible to have an honest conversation with folks who are not open to other people’s ideas. For the sake of tranquility, simply avoid hot topics. And understand that you won’t change what they think, just as they won’t change your mind either.
- Keep your voice relaxed and avoid saying “calm down” –Wikihow explains that it’s best to speak in a slow, cool voice to help others feel at ease. Also, watch your voice tone. Even when another person raises their voice or appears tense, it’s important to remain calm. Wikihow does not recommend using the term “calm down” to tell someone else how to behave, as that generally increases another person’s defensiveness. Instead, you may offer to help if there is a problem, suggest that you do not argue, or calmly take a quick break to stay levelheaded.
- Keep your posture friendly – Body language, such as crossing your arms, pointing your finger, or clenching your fists, can send unintentional messages. Whenever possible, relax your body and maintain a straight posture so that the other party doesn’t jump to the conclusion that you are being aggressive in what you are communicating.
- Don’t drink alcohol – Unfortunately, drinking has a way of giving people the “courage” to speak freely, and this is not always a good thing – especially for family-oriented events. But, as American Addiction Centers points out, alcohol stifles reasoning skills and contemplating repercussions, so that’s why the intoxicated are often “brutally honest.” a study by the University of Missouri College of Arts and Sciences shows that “drunk people know they’re making alcohol-induced mistakes; they just don’t care as much.” Thus, for the sake of family relationships, it’s best to steer clear of alcohol.
- Clarify what you are saying – If a misunderstanding occurs, it’s important to clarify what you are saying. This is generally effective if the other party is willing to listen. Otherwise, it may have the opposite effect and escalate the situation. If it’s not that important, just let it go.
- Keep the gathering short – Should you find that you can only tolerate people for a certain amount of time before you lose it, do not spend the entire day with them. Instead, join in for appetizers or dessert and excuse yourself shortly after.
- Assume responsibility if you say or do something wrong – Sometimes, stress can boil over, and we can do or say things that we don’t mean. If so, take responsibility for the mistake. And don’t dwell on it. A simple and sincere I’m sorry is quite effective.
- Do not bring up the past – One of the worst ways to spoil a Thanksgiving holiday is to bring up things from the past. Don’t bother reminding a divorced parent that they abandoned you during your childhood or scolding Aunt Mildred for being so stern. Instead, have a forgiving heart or choose a better time to discuss serious issues that are bothering you – just not on a holiday where other family members are present.
- Listen – Sometimes, it helps other people blow off steam to simply talk and have someone listen. If this helps ease others or relaxes them in the family setting, it can be a worthwhile thing to do. You don’t need to say much or even agree with them, but at the end of the day, you are doing a good deed by simply hearing them out. And, if possible, seek common ground on some of the valid points they make.
- Play games – Sometimes, keeping people engaged in activities, such as playing games, can keep them busy and help avoid confrontations related to boredom. Asking Aunt Mildred to set the table, having Uncle Harry carve the Thanksgiving turkey, or playing games with the whole family after dessert time might be a viable solution.
- Present yourself in the best light –Remember that you have control over yourself, not over how others behave or think. Don’t let others bring you down or spoil your joy with negativity. Be your own shining light. Don’t concentrate on those who are pessimistic. Opt to surround yourself with optimistic family members and happy thoughts to have a pleasant Thanksgiving.
This is strictly an opinion piece. Should you face serious family issues, it’s important to seek help from a professional and qualified family counselor.