Thanksgiving conflict resolution family dinner (small)


If the thought of enduring a meal—let alone an entire weekend—with your family or in-laws has you tensing up then you might want to keep reading.

While I have previously written about how to manage conflict and I make a living off helping people do this, the irony is not lost on me that I am now writing an article about how to seemingly avoid conflict. There is an important distinction with my offering though, as I am not suggesting you sweep all irritations under the rug as they occur but rather consciously determine in advance how you might manage annoyances or being upset.

When your interaction with someone is infrequent and limited then sidestepping the conflict can be a very reasonable course of action. Avoiding conflict with someone you see regularly or work closely with is a different story. So if your brother’s wife likes to have a go at you but you only need to make it through two hours, or your uncle’s incessant need to control conversations drives you a little wild; then consider thinking of things a little differently before you arrive.

As a mediator, here are my four tips to help you shift your perspective and enjoy yourself more:

1.    Anticipate and prepare

Assume that you will likely hear something you disagree with or that triggers you. This way if it happens you are far less likely to react or over react.

2.    Consider your role

Think about past incidents and consider how you have contributed to the strained relationship. I will admit that I have not always brought my best self to the table so to speak.

3.    Focus on the positive

Think of at least one positive quality that the other person has. Maybe they are great with kids, good at their job, have good taste in wine or help with dishes–everyone has some redeeming quality and it can be very helpful to focus on that.

4.    Try something different

Ask yourself, what is one small change you could make today that might improve the dynamic. Or you could also just act as if you like the other person. Who knows you just might be able to.


If you are like most people and have a full calendar, then why not see what you can do to enjoy your downtime more. I just would not recommend suggesting these four tips to the other person. Some things are best left unsaid.


Guest blogger Amy Robertson is a Mediate BC Family and Civil Roster mediator in Victoria, BC. Amy keeps an active Divorce, Family and Workplace mediation practice and she is a Facilitator of the Parenting After Separation Finances Course – for more information visit