The holidays are approaching. Sights and sounds of the season promise festive family get-togethers. The reality may not quite match the projected images. Not mentioned in those idyllic holiday ads are the anticipated arguments that lurk in every corner of any family event.
There have always been many contributing factors to those inevitable disagreements. However, most would agree that the state of our world today has elevated the stress level of many family celebrations. In recent years, families have been torn apart by political differences and holiday anxiety has increased.
It is fairly certain we will never eliminate family arguments altogether. With that in mind and happy family holidays at stake, we can start with some basics for an effective, productive argument. Equipping your family members with some useful strategies might just ease the tension. Like many social interactions, there are certain techniques that can be employed to improve the outcome.
Be prepared to set a more congenial place for an argument at the next family holiday table.
Some principles of argument to consider
Begin by looking at arguments in a different way.
The philosopher Karl Popper said,"The aim of an argument, or of any discussion, should not be victory but progress."
Progress to advance the discussion and not to win at any cost sets a very different stage. View progress as the goal. Already that starting point can decrease tension. It acknowledges both sides of the discussion and also opens our mind to the notion that there are merits of each side. Aim to create a family atmosphere much less adversarial and much more inclusive. The argument might not arrive at a conclusion but you may advance the idea.
Think about debating skills
Next consider that debates are ordered arguments. Incorporate some debating skills to elevate the tone of any argument. Consider the importance of logical progression in an argument to build your case. Sort the relevance of your points of view and use them effectively. Thinking clearly and quickly is an asset in any argument.
Remember that facts build a stronger base for any argument. Know the difference between fact and opinion. As an example, offering 'everyone agrees' begs the question, "Who exactly are you including in everyone?" Be curious. In any argument it is perfectly reasonable to query sources being quoted.
Watch for red herrings
A very crafty tactic is to throw a red herring into an argument. It might be misleading or unrelated to the topic. Or it might be something said to distract. An example would be a compliment. It could be sincere or it might be a distraction. Disrupting momentum or deflection are very common argument tactics. The result is you lose the focus of the argument for a moment.
Other points to ponder in any good argument
It is also very helpful to occasionally summarize what you think the other person is trying to say.
Memory is often subjective. We can use memory in arguments but remember that emotions influence what sticks to our own memory.
Tone of voice is very important. Avoid sarcasm and humiliation or approaching the argument from a place of superiority. Respect for each other is a given.
Is there a way into the other side of the argument? Common ground can be a route to resolution. Compliment a good point. Whether you agree or not, if the person offers an astute observation acknowledge that in the discussion.
Be prepared to walk away if there's an impasse. A cooling off period allows for some clarity and reviewing of information. In any family gathering, everyone feels the tension of a heated argument. When it becomes clear that a resolution cannot be found then close out the discussion without rancor.
Accept defeat graciously if you lose the argument. If someone is presenting a good argument, well supported with facts, then accepting defeat is the next step.
Keep in mind that progress is the goal. You have probably both made some very good points and that may have to be enough.
Educate don't subjugate.
Finally, if possible avoid triggers
Holidays have built in expectations. They have a way of owning us rather than us owning them. It is never too late to be preemptive and proactive and look at previous points of conflict escalation with various family members. Can you change or switch up the traditions and expectations that created stress and raised the level of tension? Rethink, revamp and relax.
In a world that already has too much tension, this topic might be a useful family discussion leading up to the holidays. These strategies for effective arguments benefit everyone in the family, at any time, because:
When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers — Kikuyu Tribe, Kenya
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