9 Tips to Avoid Conflict this Christmas


Christmas can be a time of joy and celebration, yet at the same time it can be a time of stress and tension. Don,t let that cross word escalate into a huge argument that spoils this season of goodwill.

Here are a few tips to help you smooth out any ruffled feathers:

1. Get it out into the open – Rather than avoid conflict altogether make time to sit down calmly or go for a walk to discuss any frustrations that may be building. Do so in a calm, respectful way rather than let the tension build up and blurt it out in an angry, hurtful way.

2. Stop being defensive – rather than denying how you feel and avoiding the reality that your silence is creating a bad atmosphere. Make time to talk. Silent defensiveness only contributes to the problem. You may think it better to say nothing as a way of alleviating stress in the here and now, but silence is a very passive aggressive gesture and will only alienate your partner when they don’t feel listened to.

3. Avoid overgeneralising – When you have it out with the other person avoid making sweeping generalisations. Don’t start sentences with “You always,” or “You never,” as in “You always leave everything to me!” or, “You never help me!” Can you really say, with your hand on your heart that this is the case on every occasion? Also, however tempting it may be, avoid bringing up past conflicts as this will just add fuel to the fire and stir up mor negativity.

4. There is not always a “right” or a “wrong” – it’s not helpful to always assume that there is a right and a wrong way to look at things, and that your way is the right way. Don’t demand that the other person sees it your way or that just because they have a different opinion that they are wrong. Try to find a compromise if you can, or agree to disagree. After all, both points of view could be valid.

5. Stop mind-reading – in the CBT world we talk about “unhelpful thinking.” Instead of asking how the other person is thinking of feeling, people sometimes assume that they know what their partner is thinking and feeling based upon inaccurate interpretations of their actions. For example, just because somebody is late home, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care enough to be on time. Remember, we all come from a unique perspective, so stop assuming and take time to ask, check out and really listen to the other person.

6. Don’t forget to listen – instead of taking time to attempt to understand your partner, stop interrupting, rolling your eyes and rehearsing what you are going to say next. Take time to stop and truly listen to their point of view. There will be plenty of time for you to talk. Do not underestimate the power of really listening and really trying to empathise. Such listening skills are really all about respecting the other person.

7. Stop playing the blame game – instead of simply criticising and blaming the other person for the situation. Be prepared to back down, say sorry and acknowledge that you might not be right. You may think that this weakens your credibility and prefer to “shame” them into accepting it is their “fault.” His does not help create a harmonious solution where both parties can make up. Instead, try to come up with a solution that helps you both.

8. Stop trying to “Win” at all costs – there is a saying that goes along the lines of: “If people are focused on winning the argument, the relationship loses.” The point of a relationship discussion is to reach a mutual understanding and come to an agreement or resolution that respects everyone’s needs.

9. Avoid character attacks – finally, just because your partner leaves his or her clothes lying around the bedroom does not mean that he or she is “inconsiderate” or “lazy.” Just because the other person wants to do something different to you it doesn’t mean they are being “awkward .” What ever you make think, take time to step back and give the other person some respect, after all it is their behaviour you have difficulty with.

Remember, good communication can really improve relationships, increasing intimacy, trust and support. This Christmas come together and make time for each other, even if things become a little fraught at times. Make friends, say sorry and celebrate openness and honesty.

Have a good Christmas,

Until next time, Steve.


You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

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Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Reference: “Conflict Resolution Mistakes to Avoid,” by Elizabeth Scott, 28/10/11

Image: Source/Wikimedia Commons – File: Argue.png (Clipart).

10 tips for a good ROW

File:Patchwork Girl Arguing with The Bear King Pg 295.jpg

Are you the type of person who would do anything to avoid a row, or are you never happier than when you vent your feelings? Well the good news is that experts tell us that not only are regular rows with our loved one’s normal, but they can actually be good for our health.

When you live with someone or spend a lot of time with them, rows are inevitable.  The closer we are to someone else the more we become aware of the differences between us. Not just differences in the way we do things – how we go about brushing our teeth, squeezing the toothpaste and loading the dishwasher – but also differences in the way we think and the values we have. Differences that are not talked through carefully can easily lead to misunderstandings and rows.

Good rows, the sort that enables both parties to say how they feel and get issues resolved. The sort that enable you to acknowledge the other’s perspective are very healthy. The other kind of row, where we say things we regret, are not good and can undermine the very fabric of a relationship.

When used properly, arguments can be very cathartic and can vitalise the body and soul. Most of us are pretty rubbish at rows, except perhaps lawyers and children – and most of us hate arguing and don’t do it very well.

Jonathan Herring, author of “How to Argue Powerfully, Persuasively, Positively,” ( Pearson Life) tells us that, “Arguments are great tools when used properly.”

Here are ten tips to improve your rowing skills that don’t involve bloodshed, broken crockery or dented frying pans…

1. Choose your battleground wisely, in other words choose the time and place to express how you feel – avoid public rows, but select your venue as soon as possible so that you can vent your spleen sooner rather than later.

2. Offload only as much ammunition as you need to do the job. Keep the message brief. Say exactly what you need to say initially. Ask the other person to listen while you deliver your opening salvo.  Once the other person has received what you have got off your chest, don’t belabour the point because if you do so, that runs the risk of rubbing it in (dirty fighting!) or of escalating the exchange.

3. If the person does not hear you, and this can happen often in the case of a row, because the  “thinking” part of the brain  automatically disconnects as a result of the “fight and flight” response. Use assertive repetition to emphasise your point – but don’t rub it in (dirty fighting!)

4. Use specific, objective language. Avoid generalisations like “always” and “never”. Describe ( don’t label) the behaviour you are angry about. Try saying something like, “you’ve just interrupted me twice,” rather than, “you’re always rude and inconsiderate”.

5. You may find it helpful to use what I call the “three finger exercise,” where you incorporate “I” statements and “feeling talk:”

I FEEL ( your feelings)

WHEN/BECAUSE (behaviour you dislike)

NEXT TIME, I WOULD PREFER (behaviour you desire)

For example: I FEEL really annoyed, BECAUSE you didn’t ask my opinion before you made that decision. NEXT TIME, I WOULD LIKE YOU TO consult me before making a decision that affects us both.

6. Avoid character attacks. Remember to respect the person even if you don’t approve of the behaviour. For example, if your partner leaves his or her clothes in a pile on the floor instead of putting them in the laundry basket, don’t criticise and call them “inconsiderate or lazy,” all this does is create negative perceptions on both sides. Instead use the above three finger exercise to highlight the behaviour you do not like and what you would like them to do in future.

7. Do not sulk or stonewall, refusing to talk or listen. This is “passive aggressive” behaviour and actually shows disrespect and possibly contempt, while at the same time inflames the underlying conflict. It is much better to listen and discuss things in a respectful manner.

8. Where possible aim for a compromise or agree to disagree, remember that there is not a “right” or a ” wrong” way to look at things. You cannot ” make” the other person see your way, don’t take is as a personal attack if they have a different opinion.

9. If you are likely to “explode” you need to consider using a technique known as ” time-out.” It has been used successfully by many people to stop their anger surfacing in an unhealthy manner. While it won’t solve arguments, it will ensure that you and those around you are safe. Follow these four steps BEFORE YOU EXPLODE, rather than picking up the pieces afterwards:

Step 1 – When you feel your anger rising and you notice your body becoming tense, say to the other person: “I a beginning to feel angry and I need to take time-out.”

Step 2 – Remove yourself from the situation for half an hour. No shorter. No longer.

Step 3 – Do something physical and relaxing, such as taking a walk.



Step 4 – When half an hour has elapsed, return. Check in with the other person, offer to talk about the problem if they feel like discussing it.

Do not use time-out to get out of work or things you do not wish to do – that is unfair.

10. Finally, remember that poor communication weakens bonds, creates mistrust and erodes relationships. While good communication can strengthen relationships, build closeness and increase intimacy. It helps to develop trust and mutual support.

Until next time.

With best wishes, Steve.

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

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Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APatchwork_Girl_Arguing_with_The_Bear_King_Pg_295.jpg