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Beverly Ferree
Beverly Ferree

Family Friendly Advice for Handling Disagreements During the Holidays

Nov 07, 2017

For many families, thoughts of Thanksgiving dinner elicit excitement and an opportunity to bond with family members and friends. For others, it’s much more complicated. So, if you’re among those feeling anxious about the upcoming holidays, here’s some advice on how to go “cold turkey” with the debates.

Crystal Rios, M.S. and LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) from Moore Family Therapy, offers some great advice on how to stay sane during the holidays.


Political discussion can be heated considering the emotions tied to the current political climate, but it is possible to have a level-headed conversation. Rios advises being respectful and listening when discussing political issues.

“When having a conversation with someone you disagree with, it is important to try and avoid persuading the other person to change their belief,” Rios said. “It is unlikely that this will happen. The idea is to listen and let them know they are heard. In order to do this, ask questions for clarification and suspend judgement. Validation goes a long way. It doesn’t mean that you agree but that you understand and they are heard.”

And Rios recognizes that this can be hard to accomplish, “Try to suspend judgment. Remember that everyone has their own perspectives, which are formed from their experiences.  Try to understand things from their perspectives and not your own.  Try and find something you can agree with and reflect on that.”

Rios also advises that you ask people if they would like to hear your opinion before sharing it.


Every family has one. That over-the-top, opinionated, loud, biased family member that doesn’t have an off button. But Rios advises that you think about removing yourself from the situation before you react.

“I think it is important to know when you are feeling flooded, this is a rise in heart rate,” Rios said. “Your body is telling you it is time to step back and remove yourself. I would suggest no less than 20 minutes. Do not continue to engage in conversation when you are feeling flooded.  You may say something like, “I need some fresh air or I’ll be back in 20 minutes.” This gives you time to calm down.”

And what is the best advice when you return?

“I don’t suggest telling someone their beliefs are wrong or that they are unfounded. But you may respectfully disagree by saying, ‘I hear you, but I disagree’ or ‘I would be interested in seeing where you got these facts.’”

And if that still doesn’t work, Rios offers this advice.

“Be assertive,” Rios said. “Tell them how you feel by using ‘I statements’ and removing the word ‘you.’ For example, try saying, ‘I feel frustrated when I am not understood.’”


The topic of sports has a long-standing tradition of sparking firey attitudes in many families. Whether it’s OSU or OU, the Cowboys or the Packers, inevitably someone is going to get in your face if you’re not careful. So, what is Rios’ advice?

“Try not to take things personally,” Rios said. “Light-hearted competition can be healthy.”


It doesn't get more personal than when someone tries to tell you how to raise your children. But Rios says to remember their purpose for giving the advice in the first place when they speak up.

“You can say things like, ‘Thank you for the advice’ or ‘I’ll take that into consideration.’ Don’t take things personally. Usually, when family members are giving advice they are coming from a good place. Even if you disagree, you can say, ‘That’s interesting’ and let it go in one ear and out the other.”


So, what’s Rios’ best advice when trying to maintain your cool and show respect to others when you become frustrated?

“Use humor,” Rios said. “You can even do this in the middle of a conflict if used respectfully, as an attempt to repair the conflict or keep it from going further. Do not be sarcastic.”

And there are rules to follow for anyone in any situation.

“Basically, in conflict of any kind, don’t try to persuade, eliminate the use of the word 'you', and take responsibility for your own feelings,” Rios advised. “Don’t give advice without asking permission and learn when to take a break from the environment. Typically, if the other person feels heard, not necessarily understood, but heard, they will not feel a need to argue further. ‘I hear you’ can go a long way.”

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