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7 Ways to Avoid Arguments During the Holiday Season
Barbara Pachter - Business Etiquette Expert Barbara Pachter - Business Etiquette Expert
Cherry Hill , NJ
Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Contact: Joyce Hoff joyce@pachter.com

7 Ways to Avoid Arguments During the Holiday Season

A woman threw a cookbook at her sister-in-law and screamed: "Maybe now you can cook a holiday dinner for us sometime."
With the holiday season here again, there are lots of opportunities for gift-giving, party-going and joyful celebrating. But, as the above story illustrates, there are also lots of opportunities for conflict.

According to business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter, author of The Power of Positive Confrontation, "It's easy for people to become stressed during the holidays, and as a result to become bothered by or blow up at another person's behavior. Plus, we tend to have the same conflicts year after year with the same people – conflicts that are never resolved but simply pushed aside until they flare up again."

Here are 7 "polite and powerful" suggestions for handling holiday conflict:

1. Accept what you can influence and what you can't. When you realize that you don't have control over everything, it is much easier to accept things that are not within your power to manage. If your father has remarried, he will bring his wife to the New Year's brunch.

2. Ask yourself: does it really matter? Can you let it go? If you see your great aunt only once a year, can you tolerate her behavior? Yes, I know you are hearing her stories for the tenth time, but listening to her recall a happier time in her life is a kindness to her.

3. Identify the real issue. When you get upset, it can be difficult to zero in on what truly is bothering you. Take time and think about the situation. It is easy to get upset about a current situation that masks a deeper concern. Is the issue that your brother arrives late to the holiday dinner, or that he doesn't visit your mother in her retirement home?

4. Be clear about what you want from the person. We often get upset with someone, but we don't always know what we want from the other person. Be specific. If you would like your sister-in-law to contribute to the holiday dinner, you can ask: "Joan, will you please bring a vegetable dish on Sunday?" Additional information on putting your words together for a positive confrontation can be found in my book, The Power of Positive Confrontation.

5. Use polite language. Practice saying the words out loud. Listen to how they sound. Are they harsh or attacking? Don't pounce on the other person with statements such as "You're selfish…" or "You're such a cheap-skate… ." These types of accusations are counterproductive to resolving conflict, and can lead to more conflict.

6. Confront in private. If you do decide to say something, you don't want others to hear the conversation. It can be embarrassing to the other person and to the people who hear the discussion. By extension, this means no posting any comments about the conversation on any social media sites. Also, make sure you are calm when you initiate this talk. If you are agitated, it is easy to blow up.

7. Listen to the other person's response. He or she may offer a reasonable alternative point of view, or provide an explanation for the behavior. Perhaps your sister isn't flying home for the holidays because of financial difficulties she is too embarrassed to discuss.

When you know how to confront politely on the major issues, it is easier to let the little ones go.


Barbara Pachter, president of Pachter & Associates, has spent much of her career inspiring others to achieve professionally, whether through her ten published books – including the highly-acclaimed The Power of Positive Confrontation – or through her thousands of seminars for such clients as Microsoft, Chrysler, Con Edison, Wawa, Pfizer and Campbell Soup.

As an adjunct faculty member at Rutgers University, she was recognized with a Teaching Excellence Award. Pachter has appeared on national television, including Today, The Early Show and the news magazine 20/20, and has been featured in major publications such as TIME Magazine, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, providing suggestions on professional development and business etiquette.

For a review copy of Pachter's latest book The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success, contact: Laura Yieh at McGraw Hill email: laura.yieh@mheducation.com.

For a free copy of Pachter's communication e-newsletter, "Competitive Edge," your readers can go to www.pachter.com.

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News Media Interview Contact
Name: Barbara Pachter
Title: President
Group: Pachter and Associates
Dateline: Cherry Hill, NJ United States
Direct Phone: 856-751-6141
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