8 Tips to Have an Argument-Free Christmas

Christmas is a hugely symbolic occasion for most of us. So many people invest a huge amount of time, money and energy into trying to create a wonderful occasion. Christmas this year will be very different, with restrictions on who we can see and what we can do. Here are 8 tips to make this a great Christmas and avoid pointless arguments.

1. Reset

This is a great opportunity to create the Christmas that you really want. The pattern from the past may have been full of raised hopes and disappointments. View this Christmas as being new and different to the past.

Given the restrictions, what can you do differently this year?

Here is one exercise: 

  • Think through what a perfect Christmas will be for you and how you will be feeling.
  • Look at last year, what went well and what could be even better
  • Get each of your bubble to do the same and see what is the same and what is similar
  • Co-create the perfect Christmas

2. Have a ‘Clean start’

This is a very powerful way of getting everyone in your bubble to set their expectations and help each other to understand their perspective. Give everyone a sheet of paper and ask them to answer three questions (where they provide the X and Y and Z, which could be a description or a metaphor):

  • For this Christmas to go the way I would like it to, it will be like X 
  • For this Christmas to be like X, I would like to be like Y
  • For this Christmas to be like X and me to be like Y, I would like you all to be like Z

Then everyone share and listen

3. Have a Zooming Christmas

Zooming has become a natural activity for many people in their Lockdown working world. It could be a great way of connecting with friends and family over Christmas, if you can’t see family in person. 

Set times for those you would like to connect with. If it is just to wish them Happy Christmas, then keep it short and sweet. If it is for a longer conversation create a theme and a structure. For example, have a MC to organise it and for each person taking it in turns to answer specific questions such as; What 3 things have you learned this year and what are you really looking forward to in 2021? You could also run longer sessions with a quiz or synchronised games such as Cluedo.

4. Limit Spending

Christmas in the past may have become an arms race of spend, spend, spend in the hope that the more money is spent, the more happiness is created. This year, all that can be changed. You could suggest that you set an upper limit on how much each of you will spend, which maybe will unleash more thought and creativity. You could also agree a common cause or charity for all of you to invest in rather than buying each other stuff.

By doing this the expectations are much more likely to meet the reality and the scope for arguments is reduced.

5. Be different

Ignore all of the pressure for the ‘Ideal Christmas’ that is sold to us in the media. Throw out the norms and the past. This is your time, in your bubble, to be feeling what you all want.

Agree this and set the ground rules.  

6. Presence not Presents

Focus on being there for everyone in your bubble. Your time and undivided attention is a gift that can mean so much more than something you buy.  Ensure that there are minimum distractions (such as social media and TV) and maximum opportunity to be in the same space, connecting with each other and having fun.

7. Pause Arguments

Christmas can be a tense time, especially given the restrictions on Christmas this year. It is a great opportunity to say the things you have always wanted to say. If those are loving words, great. If they are criticisms, then it is best to leave these to another time or, better still let the bad feelings go.

Arguments can quickly escalate and each of you get activated and move into primeval fight, flight or freeze mode. When this happens adrenaline will flood your body, heartrate rises, and the brain and hearing go into lockdown. This means arguments will get nowhere as you won’t be heard.   Agree ‘Pause’ signals, ideally an unusual word or a clear sign. When this is triggered, you will both pause the argument. You will go and do something else for at least 20 minutes and then come back and discuss the issue at a convenient time.

8. Create Joy

Set this as your main purpose at Christmas. Do what you can in your bubble to create joy in the world and focus on the good rather than the negatives. If, by the end of it, the world is a slightly happier place, then will that be a great result?

By Neil Wilkie

Neil Wilkie a Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist, author of Reset  and creator of the Relationship Paradigm www.relationshipparadigm.com