Making Holidays Happier

Take some guidance from the pros: negotiate, flex, listen
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ah, the holidays.

Time to kvetch about your family. And, dare we say it, exchange a few terse words with those we find particularly irritating?

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Really.

The Cornell ILR School’s Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution has graciously shared some handy workarounds – proven negotiating concepts that defuse would-be workplace friction around the world.

It just so happens these concepts can also be applied in the family dining room, kitchen or basement – wherever your holiday guests cluster.

Just in case preparation for conflict seems over the top, please do know that sensitivities seem to flare during the so-called season to be jolly.

If your family is perpetually functional, even during the holidays, keep reading; You never know when Uncle Peter is going to tick off the less right-leaning branch of the family.

David Lipsky, ILR’s Anne Evans Estabrook Professor of Dispute Resolution and a founding faculty member of the institute, and Katrina Nobles, an institute extension associate who designs curriculum, and teaches on campus and in Scheinman public professional programs, are conflict diffusion pros.

These are their tips for making it through the holidays, peacefully:  

  • Rely on negotiating – not authority, force or yielding – to resolve most conflicts
  • Listen carefully to what people are saying
  • Don’t interrogate, but ask questions, explore everyone’s needs
  • Remember, transparency is a virtue – better to share opinions than mislead
  • Stay true to your values, but be flexible on everything else
  • Frame a resolution proposal with care, phrasing can have direct impact on outcome
  • Be prepared to address “why?” after presenting your idea, articulate the rationale
  • Be wary of emotions that cloud your judgment
  • Do not attack people personally
  • It’s a journey, not a destination, so think about process, not just outcomes
  • Be patient – it takes times to negotiate, but it’s worthwhile

Good luck and happy holidays.