Preparation is key for when arguments sour festive celebrations

Everyone might have good intentions, but an argument over Christmas lunch could still happen.

Everyone might have good intentions, but an argument over Christmas lunch could still happen. Photo: Getty

Christmas can be fun and joyous, but it can also be stressful and unpleasant, so if you’re worried about a fight breaking out at the table, here’s what you need to know.

Lawyer and mediator Elise Margow told The New Daily that with everyone being able to celebrate Christmas freely for the first time in years and political tensions high, some could be in for a few blues.

She said everyone would probably have an idea of what could happen over Christmas lunch, or however you celebrate.

It could be your mother-in-law not recognising the hard work you put into the food, or your right-wing fanatic uncle with whom you always clash.

“The best thing to say is, ‘Well, I know it’s going to happen, so let’s prepare’ …” Ms Margow said.

Walk into the festivities prepared, she said.

Prepare what you’re going to say and how you’re going to deal with whatever arises if the worst happens.

If you expect that no one will acknowledge your hard work, perhaps mention all the hard work you put in.

But before you walk through the door, or open up your home to family – question whether not receiving praise is the worst thing in the world.

How to plan for Christmas

Before Christmas, have a think about potential arguments and figure out how to avoid them.

Ms Margow suggests it is best to have some activities up your sleeve to keep everyone busy, perhaps a friendly game of cricket in the backyard or putting a movie on.

There’s also no harm in having some ground rules, she said.

Everyone is still getting out of their ‘COVID fog’, meaning people are not getting over the virus itself but just the stress of the past few years.

“So I think there would potentially [be] even more issues that might be coming up [this Christmas],” she said.

Having some ground rules about what the group should not discuss is completely fine – for example, no politics.

It’s fine to talk about politics with someone who has differing beliefs or opinions, and in those cases it can be a good discussion.

If you’re able to listen to one another and respect the other’s opinion, then go for it, Ms Margow said, adding she has listened to opposing opinions and they have helped shape her perspective.

But it all comes down to who you’re talking to and whether there is mutual respect. If there is none, steer clear of discussions like that.

To keep conversations light, have a few topics ready to bring up to distract, if need be. Things like the FIFA World Cup, music, or even any upcoming holidays.

If a topic comes up and you don’t want to discuss it, Ms Margow says to simply say something along the lines of: “Everyone has a different opinion, it’s Christmas, I don’t really want to talk about it. All I want to discuss is what’s happening in the holidays or what music we’re playing.”

pictured is a family having Christmas lunch with a Christmas tree in the front.

Have a plan for how you’re going to handle arguments this Christmas.

What do you do if an argument breaks out?

Ms Margow says arguments break out when tempers flare, and there’s a lot of emotion.

There are a few things you can do if celebrations start to become volatile.

First, you need to remain calm if someone starts getting angry. This may make the other person more angry, but Ms Margow says it’s the best thing to do.

“We can either get really upset about it or just look at what we have and see what we can do to make it better. That takes a lot of control,” she said.

“Because if you are feeling as flustered as they are, and you’re building yourself up, it’s really hard to pull that back.”

This is when you go back to the preparation you did – and acknowledge that not everything is going to plan.

What if it’s all just too much?

If you’ve prepared yourself as best you can and it all seems too overwhelming and it’s just going to be too hard to face everyone, don’t go.

“We are all different people. We have different perspectives and everybody is entitled to their own views, their opinions,” Ms Margow said.

“Always come at things with respect and if things are really going to hurt you mentally and it’s going to really break you to be there, don’t do it.”

Ms Margow says she knows plenty of people who break their Christmas plans, knowing there are people who cause problems on the day.

Christmas is meant to be a day when everyone gets together, but there is little point putting yourself in a situation if you’re going to end up hurt.

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