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Home for the Holidays: Reconnecting Authentically with Successful Conversations

friends-581753_1920The holidays are a time filled with catching up with old friends and family. Since electronic communication has taken over the world; the face-to-face conversation has become a difficult one to hold for many people. Therefore, below is a list of do’s and don’ts on how to generate successful dialogue with your relatives and old friends.

DO listen attentively. A conversation should be a back and forth effort, and for that to occur you must be able to listen and respond to what the person is saying. It is important to make eye contact with the person speaking, give a nod or some other sort of acknowledgment that shows the person you are listening such as, “That must have been exciting for you”.

DO ask questions. My mother once told me that if I ever find myself stuck in conversation to ask the person questions about themselves and I found this to be very successful. It is important to ask open-ended questions – ones that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” For example, “How did that impact the kids when you moved to the new neighborhood?”

DO end the conversation. I say this one because once the conversation begins to taper off people don’t know how to conclude the dialogue politely and what transpires is an awkward ending or silence. Therefore, when you notice the conversation has reached its end, add a few comments or appreciative remarks to conclude. Every good conversation has a beginning, middle, and end. Simply say, “I appreciate you sharing that experience with me.”

DON’T use your cell phone unless it’s an emergency. People today are constantly connected. It becomes difficult for two people to have a conversation if one or both of them are checking their social media or texting others. It also sends the message the person you are currently face-to-face with is not as important as the person on the other end of the phone. So, therefore, put the phones away even having them out in plain sight can be distracting.

DON’T interrupt. When the person is speaking, don’t cut them off to share your insight or personal story, or finish their sentence if you anticipate it’s ending. Both would imply that you were not actively listening to what the person was saying and don’t think what they are saying is important.

DON’T discuss or make jokes about taboo topics. Nowadays, we don’t always know where people, including our family and friends, stand on politics, religion, healthcare, and other sensitive topics – including our family and friends. Therefore, it is best to politely change the subject or avoid making jokes about sensitive material to maintain a successful dialogue.

Conversations with old friends and relatives during the holidays does not need to be an awkward exchange. Instead, use these Do’s and Don’ts to help increase the chances of a successful conversation.

 

Happy Holidays,

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S. Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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Holiday Homecomings – Preparing for Your College Child’s Return

house-19002_640-1I have heard the venting of frustration from college students and parents after Thanksgiving and Winter breaks have concluded.

It is a familiar story:

College student lives away from home and gets a taste of independence. They can stay up as late as they want, come and go as they please, eat whatever, where ever, and not have to worry about keeping their room clean or following the rules of their parents. College student excited for break returns home with the presumption that their parents will treat them differently because they are now an adult who has been living on their own and who makes up their rules. A college student comes home and finds their parents are treating them the same as when they were in high school.  They have a curfew; their parents are nagging them about helping out around the house and forcing them to visit with family when they would prefer to be spending time with their friends who were also away at school. Conflict arises and what was supposed to be a nice, relaxing break has now made the college student longing to be back at school.

Parents move their college student in at school. After a tearful good-bye, they hope and pray that their child makes the right decisions and all the good habits you have instilled in them will carry on at school. Parent’s miss college student and gets excited about Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks because they will get to spend time with their child who has been away at school. College student returns and they are different from the child they moved in at school. They suddenly think they can do whatever they want; come and go as they please, sleep into the late afternoon, not help around the house, and spend all their time with friends. Conflict arises and what was supposed to be a nice break filled with quality bonding time with college student has now made the parent dreading the summer break.

Can you see where the disparity in what the college student and parents think Thanksgiving and Winter Break will be like and how it can cause problems? How can we be pro-active so the holidays can be a joyous time for all?

First, acknowledge the possibility of change. Are you a college student coming home this holiday? Recognize that you are still your parent’s child despite your new-found independence. Be aware that they have missed you and that they may need some time to adjust to the changes you have made as a young adult. If you are a parent, you need to acknowledge that your college student may have changed since you dropped them off. They are still your child, but they are also becoming an independent adult.

Second, communicate and prepare. Before your college student comes home, it’s important to have a conversation about expectations. Yours and theirs. Will there be a curfew? How much time will be spent with family? How much time will be devoted to friends? What chores will they be responsible for while home? It is important that this is a discussion, and not the parents telling the college student what is going to happen. Parent’s remember your college student is not in high school anymore and certain rules may need further negotiation with an open-minded discussion. College students keep in mind; you are still under your parent’s roof which means to respect their way of life and their house rules.

Lastly, be patient. It may be difficult once your child returns home for them to recall the expectations discussed in earlier conversations. It is important to be patient through these adjustment periods. What may not be working this time around can be noted and discussed for the next holiday break.

The goal is that everyone has an enjoyable Thanksgiving and Winter break that remains conflict free or at least managed well. The first step is to be proactive before things get out of control and misunderstandings lead to long-term hurt feelings.

 

Have a good weekend,

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice.

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How To Manage Financial Conflicts Within Your Family During The Holidays

 

Does your family argue or fight about money or finances during the Holidays? Expectations about what kinds of gifts to buy, how much you can afford to spend on travel or even when siblings or other family members ask for money can cause conflict. Dave and Pattie will talk about some of the causes of Holiday financial conflicts, some strategies to keep from being sucked into the drama and even some tips about how to calm family members down when emotions about money are high.

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How Blended Families Can Unite And Not Fight During The Holidays

 

elaine-ambrosezena Zumeta According to recent statistics, almost 50% of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. Most divorced adults remarry and create blended families of yours, mine, and ours and include assorted, confused grandparents. Navigating the holidays can be stressful when arranging child custody agreements, table seating, and various cultural and religious beliefs among the families. Best-selling humor author Elaine Ambrose uses her own experiences to discuss how to focus on the joys of the season and prevent your blended family from exploding into a food fight.

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Neighbor Nuisance Brings You Holiday Annoyance

 

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Dealing with the normal stress of the holidays can be enough to handle. Then add those annoyances and disruptions you have to deal with in your neighborhood…loud holiday parties, cars blocking roads and your driveway, those bright holiday lights and decorations. All invading your peace and quiet. The holidays can bring people together just as equally as they can erupt into full blown holiday mayhem. Conflict coaching experts, Pattie Porter and Stephen Kotev, will discuss strategies to keep neighbor conflict at bay and help you manage your triggers to those nuisances you cannot control.

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Breaking Bad: The Decision to Change Holiday Traditions

holiday-traditionsBreaking away from family traditions during the holiday season can be difficult.  Regardless of the reason or the explanation given to your family, friends or spouse, it rarely goes well. Why is that? The fact is that traditions are traditions for a reason. Traditions hold a symbolic or significant meaning to your family, friends and yourself. Your absence from a tradition is more than just, “Hey, sorry we won’t be there this Christmas ”. Your absence from a tradition means the loss of chances to hear family stories or to connect with distant family members who you probably will not see until next year. Tradition is a sensitive topic especially when it involves holidays or large family gatherings, and it can create unpleasant feelings and conflict.

There could be many reasons why you decide to break from a family tradition. Here are a few that I came up with…

  • The growth of personal relationships (marriage). You and your new spouse want to start a tradition within your own home to celebrate the holidays. This can make your family or your spouse’s family upset.
  • The ignorance to diversity and difference within your family. For example, the fear to introduce a new spouse, college friend or co-worker from a different religious, racial, or economic background. These situations can create tension for all parties involved. See clip Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
  • The strained relationship with in-laws. The constant offenses or verbal attacks from each other during traditional holiday meals can discourage your attendance at those dinners.
  • Personal lifestyle choices. For example, you are now the raw vegan or vegetarian who no longer indulges in meat and/or dairy products. Yet your family still makes those traditional holiday favorites ham, deviled eggs and mashed potatoes, which you cannot eat.
  • Simple boredom. I will not sugar coat. I know family traditions can become stale and boring; so, you stay home or seek another place to go instead of attending the traditional holiday festivities your father or mother have hosted over the years.

Whatever the reasons are, do not brush them off. Don’t wonder if you are the bad guy because you want to break with tradition. Remember your reasons are just as important as the tradition itself! If you want to start your own family tradition say that, but say it respectfully, explain why and say it early. Don’t wait until the day of Christmas dinner to decide you want to break tradition. If the religion or the race of your significant other worries you, speak to your family ahead of time, don’t bring your significant other into the chaos. If in-laws are purposeful grouches, tell your spouse and speak to the in-laws privately before the family affair. If you are the vegan or vegetarian at the traditional meat-loving family dinner, bring a dish for the family to try. If a particular family tradition is boring, talk with mom or dad to change it up a bit. Just remember to be respectful, show that you still care and speak up early.

To learn more about the break from family holiday traditions visit Breaking With Tradition: How to Navigate the Delicate Subject of Changing Family Holiday Rituals or listen to our recent podcast, When Cultural Expectations Collide During the Holidays: Strategies for Multicultural Families.

By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student
University of Baltimore Dispute Resolution Program

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Don’t Let Greed Breed Conflict And Interfere With Your Holiday Cheer

Overwhelmed by gift exchanges.

Overwhelmed by gift exchanges.

Holidays, Holidays, as Andy Williams said “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” and I’m sure it is for many. Unfortunately, it can be stressful with unrealistically high expectations and unforeseen conflicts ending with nasty arguments, disappointed family members and friends. Gift-giving exchanges among our growing extended family and friends causes some of the most anxiety and frustration. Why? Unmet expectations, values we place on others or ourselves about gift giving, and the need for love and affection that often gets tied to the gift and gift giver.

Have you ever been unsatisfied with your gift? Thought your husband, wife, best friend, sister or someone close to you didn’t spend enough on you?  Were you expecting something different? The hair dryer was not on your “expected” gift list. Could you not afford to give everyone a gift due to the growing size of your family? These unmet expectations create conflict. Hurtful comments are made. You feel the tension, the awkward silence and the anxiety.

The truth is we have all been there in that same position. You are not alone. Every year you tell yourself “I’m going to plan better next time” or “I will stick with a budget” but it never works out. Mentally you are drained and you haven’t prepared yourself for the chaos that will come when your family, best friends or unexpected guests arrive at your home for holiday festivities and gift exchanges.

Imagine, it’s Christmas day at your home and your family is exchanging gifts. Your aunt opens her gift and her facial expression goes from a smile to a face of concern. You ask her if she likes her gift and her reply is “yes”. Later that day you find out she is upset because the gift you got her is entirely too expensive.  You spent way more on her than what she spent on you. Yes, people get upset if they receive a holiday gift that they believe is too “pricey”. In addition to your upset aunt, you also find out that your cousin is saddened because you didn’t get him a gift. Unfortunately, you did not have enough money to buy him a gift.   You believe in spending within your means or budget. Right? That’s exactly right! Your cousin goes off on a tantrum and believes that favoritism within the family is the reason he did not receive a gift, not the fact that you did not have enough money. The conflict begins.

Here are some tips for how you can keep money and gifts from creating family conflict.

  • Create a budget and STICK TO IT! Don’t spend what you can’t afford.
  • Try creative ideas like “Secret Santa”. Decide on minimum and maximum costs. Explain the rules CLEARLY!
  • Be honest. It does not hurt to explain to family and friends why you decided to change the gift giving process.
  • Use Gift Cards.  Relatives and friends can buy whatever they want! Even giving the same gift can eliminate conflict then no one complains about favoritism.
  • Communicate effectively…be open and transparent about your expectations and hopes for the holiday season.
  • Show appreciation for the thought and action behind the gift.

To learn more on preventing conflict around gift giving this season, visit How To Avoid Money Arguments During the Holiday Season and Communication Currents.

Listen to our podcast archives to help you prepare for the holidays.

       How To Manage Financial Conflicts Within Your Family During The Holidays

By Tierra Henry, Graduate Student, University of Baltimore

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Handling the Holidays Before They Handle You

Dr. Patricia E. AdamsIn this session, Dr. Patricia Adams will highlight the importance of preparing for the holiday season to save yourself from the amount of stress that can creep in with the season. By following the simple steps of Planning Early, Exercising Regularly, Accepting Help, Creating a New Tradition, and Enjoying Today, you can erase the stress and headache that can set in. Dr. Patricia Adams will highlight this method to use these tips to handle the holidays before they handle you!

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Family Holiday Conflict – Getting Ready for the Holidays

Our conversation will focus on what to do to prepare for those family gatherings so that you don’t lose your cool.

  • Have you ever felt you have to perform like Martha Stewart and be the perfect hostess?
  • Or, maybe you wanted to start a new tradition but it is met with resistance because “we’ve always done it this way!”
  • Do you get tired of the constant battle of who to visit, so instead you rush around to 3 or 4 family households in a day? Exhausting!
  • We all certainly have those relatives we see during the holidays that make us want to cringe. They’ll never change!   
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When Cultural Expectations Collide During the Holidays: Strategies for Multicultural Families

The holidays bring together families with long-held traditions, customs and celebrations. These holiday traditions are founded in our roots…our cultural identity, religious beliefs, and family values. The customs and traditions are sacred. But what happens when two families merge a multi-cultural or interracial marriage? Each family brings with them their own cultural expectations with different values and priorities.  The pressures to conform and to honor those traditions of the other family can cause stress and fracture points not only in the marriage but between the in-laws and extended families. Multi-cultural families have a unique need to bend, flex, compromise and accommodate one another’s contrasting ways.

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