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Health & Balance

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7 Ways to Squelch Holiday Squabbles

Etiquette expert Peggy Post shares tips for a harmonious holiday season.

3. Share the Work continued...

Lang's solution is to ask relatives to help with the cooking instead of bringing gifts. "Then it does not fall on one person's shoulders economically or physically," she tells WebMD. "Get very specific when telling people what to bring."

Post agrees that sharing the workload is a good way to avoid short fuses. This goes for serving and clearing, as well as cooking. "Hopefully no one is just sitting there being waited on," she says, adding that football does not excuse men from pitching in. "At Thanksgiving, many women like to watch the football games, too." She suggests assigning tasks ahead of time so everyone will know when and how they are supposed to help.

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 directly.

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 front."

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?

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