Don’t upset the in-laws – time for a Christmas communication 'miracle'

Don’t upset the in-laws – time for a Christmas communication 'miracle'

Christmas has long been a hot bed for family fall outs, but whilst some traditions may be missed this December, it seems forgoing a family feud isn’t one of them. As households across the UK are asked to limit contact over the festive period, tensions are running high for some families.

But there is still time for a Christmas communication miracle, if families can practise and improve their verbal behaviours. Rachel Massey, Director of Marketing at Huthwaite explains:

“This year has been all too challenging for families, and so tensions are already running high. Add to that, this perceived, ‘window of opportunity’ to celebrate with loved ones and the pressure really is mounting in some households. Of course, after such a difficult year, the last thing families and friends want is to fall out. We’re hoping that our expert negotiation tips and communication advice will help families struggling to find a happy compromise this Christmas”

Huthwaite has taken its experience of managing some of the world’s most complex negotiations and created an easy to access Christmas list that will help conversations run smoothly. The main tip, Rachel explains, is to avoid argument dilution: “A common mistake people make when trying to agree on a compromise, is to dilute their argument by adding tens of reasons why they feel so strongly about a decision. Many people believe the more reasons they give, the stronger their argument is, but sadly this isn’t the case.

“To successfully negotiate with your in-laws, family and friends you need to set out your point clearly and express your view in the simplest way by positioning only the strongest points and keeping them to a maximum of two. If you find yourself trying to reel off every reason why you should spend your Christmas with (or without!) x, y and z, it’s easy for the counter party to pick up on one weak point that then makes your whole argument redundant. Your argument becomes diluted – a lose-lose situation.

“Here at Huthwaite, our research shows there are behaviours that are best avoided during business negotiations and these can also be applied to avoid or minimise the damage of any family feuding this Christmas.”

Huthwaite’s top 7 tips to avoid a nightmare fallout over Christmas:

  1. Less is more. Limit the number of points in your argument to two or less. Any more could potentially weaken your point and don’t feel the need to provide lengthy justifications; instead keep your supporting arguments brief and to the point.
  2. Remember there are a number of irritating words and phrases that will do nothing to help your cause in the midst of family 'discussions'. Top of the list are words like 'fair' and 'reasonable' (fair and reasonable to whom?) and telling someone you're being 'honest' with them - the inference here being you were not before!  Steer clear of this type of language which can really damage relationships.
  3. Logic by itself is hardly ever persuasive. It's that simple.  Many of us have spent time fruitlessly trying to change the opinion of someone not willing to listen to what WE consider to be reason.  State a single strong reason why you disagree but also ensure you establish the position of the other person and have an appreciation of their point of view.
  4. If something is really important to you, don't just give in, but think and talk about trading. Perhaps you promise to spend Christmas with those individuals you can’t see this Christmas next year?
  5. Power is a perception. You have to think: "How much power does the person I’m arguing with have?" They may make your life misery for an hour or two, but is it really worth risking never speaking again for the sake of an argument you’re likely to forget by the New Year?
  6. Avoid agreeing on their points one by one. If you have made gradual concessions, you will have nothing left to bargain with as discussions continue.

Amongst all the hustle and bustle of an unusual Christmas period, these tips might just help to bring an argument to a close swiftly, with minimal damage. Leaving you to enjoy a safe and magical time in your Christmas bubble.


About the Author
Rachel Massey

Written by Rachel Massey

Rachel is responsible for Huthwaite’s strategic marketing and communications across the globe. With over 20 years marketing experience, Rachel has shaped brand architecture, driven digital strategy, created content, produced events and built communities for organisations from small businesses to global brands.