7 Ways to Squelch Holiday Squabbles
Etiquette expert Peggy Post shares tips for a harmonious holiday season.
4. Define 'On Time'
"Being on time is really respecting other people's time," Post says.
"Communicate about what 'on time' means to you. It means different things
to different people."
Post also advises to call if you're running late and check with the host
first if you plan to arrive early. If you are the host, let family members know
what time you would like them to arrive, rather than what time you plan to
start the meal. Don't assume people will come early to help unless you ask them
5. Avoid Re-Gifting
"You don't have to break the bank for a really nice gift," Post
says. "The key is to find something the person will really like. Stay away
from re-gifting, because people's feelings will be hurt" if the gift seems
too generic (or if they recognize it from last year).
Post says some families have reined in holiday spending while improving the
quality of gifts by drawing names. "You focus on one family member each
year and really get something special for that person."
When receiving gifts, Post says to apply the principle of "benevolent
honesty." If you don't like a present, find something nice to say about it
without lying. "Always be appreciative and thank the person up
6. Avoid Awkward Surprises
It's a familiar dilemma for many families: What do you do if your parents
(or in-laws or close friends) are divorced and don't get along, but you want to
invite them both?
"Sometimes you have to have separate celebrations for the sake of family
harmony," Post says. But if you're set on having everyone together, run it
by the ex-spouses first. "Take your cue from the one you're closest
to," Post advises. "Say, 'I'd love to invite John, too. Is that OK with
you?'" Whatever you decide, inform both parties ahead of time so they don't
show up and feel surprised.
A similar strategy can help in other awkward scenarios. For example, if your
brother wants to bring his partner home for Christmas, and you're worried your
grandparents will disapprove, give them advance notice. "Tell them to be on
their best behavior and put aside their differences at holiday time," Wish
says. "If they start to act up, pull them aside and tell them it's
7. Be Inclusive
If your family includes people of different religions or ethnicities, Post
suggests including traditions that will make everyone feel welcome. "Some
families have made it work out beautifully to celebrate all religions," she
tells WebMD. This doesn't mean you must join in any rituals that make you
uncomfortable. "If there is a prayer going on, you don't have to
participate," she says. "You can just quietly sit there."
Wish agrees that honoring your relatives' traditions can promote harmony at
holiday gatherings. "Don't let people feel left out," he says.
"Have something there that celebrates for everyone."