5 ways to deal with conflict at Christmas

Christmas is a stressful time. Together with having to deal with family members and people you don’t usually see, organisation, cooking and somehow “having fun” all at the same time, it’s a lot easier for people to get annoyed with each other. Doing all this while worrying about your drinking as well can make for a tricky (and touchy) festive season.

Whether the conflict is related to drinking or just the other difficulties of Christmas, it can help to practice and pre-prepare some techniques to prevent it from overshadowing the festive period or having an impact on your short term goals. Here are 5 ways you could approach difficult situations around your drinking this Christmas with an open mind.

WOOP your way out

The best way to avoid conflict is anticipating it and taking the measures you need to avoid it in advance. If you’ve been worrying about something for weeks, chances are you will be stressed, sensitive, and more likely to deal with conflict in a negative way. Identify what or who exactly you are worried about, what the best case scenario is, and how you think you could get there. Put this into a WOOP, so you come out with a clear Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. This will give you accountability and improve the way you deal with specific people, situations and triggers.

Have the conversation

The feeling of anger is actually just fear that the person hurting you will never understand why their behaviour is “wrong” or makes you feel upset. This is why that when you feel angry, there is usually a lesson you want to teach the person who made you feel like that. So have the conversation and teach them, not by shouting or being visibly upset, but by explaining why you have found certain behaviour/events/people difficult to deal with. You might reach an ‘agree to disagree’ situation and acceptance that you’re confident in your own beliefs, or they could even end up going from your biggest critic to your biggest cheerleader. The best way to minimise conflict is to co-opt your critics as part of your journey.

Tell them what you need

Similarly, you can change everything by being confident about what you want. It’s also very hard for people who truly love you to refuse a direct request about something that could help you. Start with “I would really like it if you…” and follow it with a ‘call-to-action’, such as “bought me a lime and soda instead of a glass of wine when we’re out”, or “helped find nice alcohol-free drinks that we both like”. Make your requests positive rather than negative by asking the person to ‘do something’ rather than to not do or stop doing something. Put a positive spin on it rather than treating it as a problem that needs confronting, and show the person you love how they can add to your journey.

Make it up

If you’re fed up of having the conversation or just feel you shouldn’t have to justify your choices to everyone. Remember that drinking is not compulsory. If telling a white lie such as “I have to get up early to go to the gym/do Christmas shopping/ferry the kids around” or “I’m still hungover for last night” or “I’m on antibiotics” is going to help get you through, then do it.

Friends come in many guises; some may not understand why you want to change, some may even actively try to sabotage you. In extreme situations not telling people about changing your drinking, or even telling white lies isn’t enough. A friend may simply cause more trouble for you than they’re worth. For example someone who keeps pushing drinks on you, even after repeatedly being told you don’t want them. Or someone who won’t stop commenting on your choices in a negative way.

The final choice is of course yours, but it might be best to avoid these people, just for now. Christmas is a great time to meet new people within your company or amongst your clients. Set yourself a challenge to get to know some new people better. Friendships and good connections will last well into the new year – curiosity is always better than alcohol for getting a conversation going.

Step back

Instead of getting riled or upset, make sure you have a cosy retreat if things get difficult. No one will notice if you sneak off for a bit of me-time, whether it’s a quick walk and some deep breaths or reading a few pages of a book with a cup of tea.

At Club Soda, we’re also big believers in the benefits of mindfulness techniques and meditation. We want everyone to know how to be serene, especially in moments of annoyance or stress. Figure out what this means to you, and do more of what makes you relax. Some people use conventional methods like meditation or exercise, and others listen to pounding techno. Whatever floats your boat.

And finally…

Whatever happens this Christmas, remember that conflict is temporary, and a drop in the ocean compared to the time you have spent or will spend working on your drinking goals. Be strong, have confidence in your choices, and don’t let criticism bring you down.

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