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Tips for Avoiding Drama with Family during the Holiday Season!

In general, communication can often be a challenging part of a relationship between two people, married or not. During the Christmas season many of us visit and interact with family members which could bring the best or worst in everyone. In this blog, the following are practical tips to keep in mind and do when facing challenging people in your life. To avoid drama or useless conversations and unproductive conversations you can take these steps:
 
1. First remember that you are responsible FOR your own feelings not for others' feelings. However, you are responsible TO the person you are talking to and that is to be present and listen to them carefully.  Listen before you express your point of view or your opinion. When you see that the other person is upset or emotionally reactive, do not explain or defend yourself immediately. They are not experiencing you from their prefrontal cortex and rational part of their brain. Stay calm and quiet and let them finish. Show concern for that they feel. When they are talking to you with intense emotions they are operating from a different part of their brain (the Amygdala in the brain) where they feel fight, freeze and fold feelings. So show concern for what they feel and validate their feelings, and in authentic way say something like, "that must be difficult" or "tell me more" or "it sounds overwhelming". Do not assume that these comments worked because you said this, ask if you understand and verify by repeating back to them what you heard them say. This calms down a great deal of drama.
 
2. Deal with conflicts ASAP - nip it in the bud. Ignoring any issue is toxic and when we ignore an issue misunderstandings fester overtime. If you have a difficult person or friend in your life and there is a conflict do not let the issue linger. It will be more complicated when you spend time with mutual friends or family members who will know the conflict has not been resolved. This leads to drama and creates drama. Take the initiative and act.
 
3. Avoid the toxic triangle and communicate honestly and openly. a toxic triangle is when one hears something about another person through a third party. This is known as gossip. You don't want to hear from any of your in-laws what your spouse thinks of you. Instead you want to have a healthy open conversation with your spouse where you are both vulnerable. Direct honest communication always wins out over triangulation and it is healthy.
 
4. Be clear and firm with your boundaries in any relationship. What does this mean? Set ground rules. Rules are good. Rules keep us sane healthy and create order in our relationships. Sadly so, there are people who are walking dramas. They interrupt, react, blow up, yell and make life miserable for people around them. These people also never tend to solve problems. When or if you have people who thrive on drama before you talk to them, you have to set a few ground rules. Discuss the following ground rules when they are calm, not in the crisis of high emotions - and they are:
A) Finishing a sentence without the other person interrupts.
B) It is OK to be upset without yelling and disrespectful words. You can say when you yell or you are disrespectful I will stop listening and will talk to you when you are able to follow these rules.
C) Each person will seek to understand what the other person is saying.
 
These are simple rules. Expect mistakes to be made. When attempting these points in above, they will lose perspective and will violate the above ground rules. Gently remind the other person of the boundary, and state to them "remember the interrupting ground rule". You can say "I need to finish my sentence first." Most people would honor this. If you face those who will violate these rules and they push back, you simply halt the conversation, and say you will need to resume this when the person can respect the rules in a calm manner and you stop.
 
Preventing any drama requires us to practice firm boundaries and open honest communication, otherwise it will get out of control. Try these. Following the above four major suggestions will lead you to a drama-free life and relationships.