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5 Tips on avoiding conversation conflict at family get togethers

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

You have been prepping for the time when you can all get together as a family. You have everything ready for the perfect family meal. How it is going to go is something you have pictured in your mind. Just like the hallmark movie, everyone sitting round the table laden with food. Everyone laughing and joking, and being kind to each other and then boom. Wait! That relative chimes in with a comment that you know will change the atmosphere. We have just had a mid-term election and making critical comments about who won or lost. Filling the tank with gas and your grocery cart with food is taking up the entire paycheck. Is World War Three about to happen because of the situation is Russia?

You feel your self screaming in your head. No! This is not how it's meant to be. These were meant to be off-limit conversations. What are you going to do when the conversation turns to conflict? In the past, you would have sat there and let all the emotions churl up inside you. This year, you can do something different to maintain your own happiness and inner peace. You may have heard it said that you can only control you and no-one else. Here are the five simple tips you can practice at the dinner table. Although, I am sure you will have plenty of opportunity to practice ahead of the meal. Read on to make sure you can avoid these conversations with your next family get together.

  1. Plan

Prepare ahead of time where you want to sit at the table. If you are hosting the meal, then traditionally you would sit at the head of the table. Otherwise you can choose to sit in the middle surrounded by family. You may end up with the family member beside you whom you would prefer to avoid as they start the conflict conversations. Alternatively, you can sit on the corner where it’s easier to make a quick escape, when the conversations start to go in a direction that you would prefer to avoid.

2. Breathe

The Navy SEALS use box breathing to stay calm and improve their concentration in extremely tense situations. Breathing is your gear stick to put your engine into the appropriate gear. Slow, stable breathing calms the heart, blood pressure, and helps you to think clearly. Before they go into a stressful situation, the Navy Seals practice box breathing.

The 4 steps of box breathing include:

a) Inhale slowly through your nose while mentally counting to four. Concentrate on filling your lungs and abdomen with air.

b) Take a deep breath. Hold your breath and mentally count to four again.

c) Exhale slowly through your mouth while mentally counting to four.

d) Take a deep breath.

Try it now. Notice how it makes you feel.

3. Think

Think about what you are thinking about. Our thoughts can take us down a rabbit hole if we allow them. “Oh no, here she goes again. She always brings this topic when we are all together. Of course, she is going there again. Why doesn’t she stop?” Before you know it, She has put you in a terrible place. Many times we cannot control the thought that come to our mind, however we can control what we do with them. So think about changing your thought pattern. Instead of. “Oh, here she goes again.”. Think, “She brings this up every year, and I know where it’s going to go, so I choose to…breathe, think about what I have to do to get my goals done.” By diverting your thoughts, you can create a happier, healthier internal mental state.

4. Playlist

Changing your thinking is not working for you. Try this. Create an emotional rescue playlist. Music can soothe, inspire, improve your mood and help you focus. In his powerful book The Secret Language of the heart, author Barry Goldstein reviews the neuroscience properties of music and finds it can stimulate the emotional circuits of the brain, release oxytocin, the cuddle hormone. If you need help with creating a happy playlist, check out

If you are the host, think about what music you are going to pay. Is it inviting and soothing?

5. Go outside

If all these techniques don’t work for you, remember, you are not held hostage at the dinner table. You have a choice. You can politely excuse yourself and go outside to get some fresh air. Changing the environment, getting often helps provide a different perspective. It’s proven to reduce your stress and anxiety.

You could suggest after the meal has finished to all go for a walk. It not only helps with food digestion, it also helps to distract and avoid conflict conversations.

So the next time you have a family get together apply these 5 tips: Plan, Breath, Think, Playlist, Go outside for a sure with to avoid conflict conversations. You will be able to enjoy your family time and be happier and peaceful. By doing so, you can create healthy conversations.

Happy Holidays!

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