Conflict: Calm It Down

We are t-minus zero days to the holiday season. It’s here, and with it inevitably comes parties and dinners, seeing and talking to folks you may not have seen for a while, and tiring travel. With all of that also comes conflict, potential arguments, disagreements, tears, and anger. Take a few moments to yourself to work on your conflict skills this holiday season and maybe you’ll make it through without yelling at Uncle Jeff.


Sometimes when folks have a difference in opinion, they just want to be heard. You don’t have to agree with them, or tell them they are right or anything. You just have to listen to them. Let them talk, hear what they are saying and move along. If you need an extra trick, affirm what they are saying with “Yes, And.” If Uncle Jeff is talking about how cheese is trash, and you love it, you might say: “Yes, Uncle Jeff, you think cheese is trash, and I love it.” All you’ve done is affirm what they think, and there is no harm in that. 

Respond, Don’t React

 Reactions are not great when you’re in the middle of a conflict. We use some of our worst coping mechanisms when we are experiencing the emotions of HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired – and the holiday season can bring ALL of those emotions on quick.

When you are in the middle of something that you can easily recognize as conflict, build in some reflection time, and be sure to give yourself some time for grace in response. If you’re simply reacting, you might end up saying things you regret or activating some of those negative coping mechanisms.

Chances are the conflict is with someone you’re interested in seeing again or even maintaining a relationship with. Take the time and care out to respond, which involves thinking about the other person and practicing empathy, considering what you want out of this conversation, and looking at the outcomes of your response. Snapping back at someone is going to evoke a different response than taking a pause and then responding.

Giving yourself space and time is critical to responding versus reacting, and considering where you are in the HALT acronym. Are you experiencing any of those emotions that lead to negative coping skills? Take some time to THINK before you respond. 

Give Up Control

There are very few things you can control during a conflict, and all of it lies with you. In the past few months, I read something online that shook me to my core so hard, I can’t help but tell everyone about it: Disagreement is inevitable; disrespect is optional.

It’s ok – you can sit down, too. It’s heavy, I know.

How true though! Disagreements happen all the time – you’ve probably had several already this month, week, even today! You don’t have to be disrespectful though when you disagree with people. You can choose to leave it as a disagreement instead of letting it turn ugly and rude.

You also need to give up a bit of control when you’re dealing with conflict, because you cannot control how someone responds to you – only how you respond to them. You can’t make them listen more, make them practice empathy, even make them understand when they are in the middle of being hangry they aren’t easy to talk to or deal with – you can only control how you respond to them.

It might seem like a lot of pressure to only have that much control – or to have so much, in my opinion! – but think about it: you can quickly diffuse some of the conflicts by simply taking a breath, listening, and responding instead of reacting.

Happy holidays and good luck!


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