5 Tips for Handling Difficult Topics Over the Holidays

Mindfulness can help you avoid conflict at family gatherings.

Despite the holidays being a time of joy and reconnecting with family and friends, many people suffer from holiday-related anxiety, especially when seeing those with differing opinions on touchy subjects like politics. Other sources of anxiety can include family conflicts, divorce and complicated blended family dynamics. With a few steps, it’s possible to minimize unnecessary holiday strife for a more harmonious season. Here are five tips to help ease tension.


  1. Cultivate understanding through active listening. When a family member or friend expresses an opinion about politics you don’t agree with, try actively listening instead of interrupting. Studies show active listening deescalates tensions, defensiveness and conflict.


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  1. Pay attention to your body. If a particular topic causes you to physically tense up, consider deflecting tension by calling a time out or pivoting to another topic. Try to be aware of tension in the body language of others, too.

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  1. Employ humor. Laughter relieves stress, elevates moods, makes us more resilient and benefits relationships. Have some jokes on hand for when tensions are high.


  1. Have an exit strategy. Give yourself permission to walk away, leave the room or to go for a walk when conflicts feel too overwhelming.


  1. Disagree without using personal attacks. It’s normal to have different perspectives and opinions. Respectful disagreements are key for healthy relationships. But when they turn into personal attacks, the conversation goes from civil to abusive. Establish trust with friends and family to maintain mutual respect and peace around touchy topics.


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