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Christmas, Dinner

Don’t upset the in-laws!

How to avoid ‘a nightmare before Christmas’ when choosing your Christmas bubble

  • One in three think it’s likely they’ll have a family feud at Christmas
  • Family fall outs expected as Brit’s struggle to choose their two households
  • Experts in negotiation explain the top tips to help households navigate the Christmas bubble dilemma

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 stick to a three-household bubble over the festive period, tensions are running high for some families.

But, according to experts in negotiation and communication, Huthwaite International, there is still time for a Christmas communication miracle, if families can practice and improve their verbal behaviours. Tony Hughes, CEO 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 families that are feuding. The main tip, Tony 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. Whilst some people may think 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 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 before Christmas:

  1. Limit the number of points in your argument to two or less. Any more could potentially weaken your point.
  2. Less is more. Don’t feel the need to provide lengthy justifications; Instead keep your supporting arguments brief and to the point.
  3. Avoid irritators. There are a number of behaviours that work to immediately irritate the opposing party. Top of the list are using the words ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’ – fair and reasonable to whom? Also, telling someone you’re ‘being honest with them’ – indicating you may not have been before. Steer clear of this use of language; it can be damaging to your relationships.
  4. Logic is hardly ever persuasive. Avoid giving long chains of reasons. If you do disagree, simply state a single strong reason and leave it there.
  5. Don’t just give in, talk about trading. Perhaps you promise to spend Christmas with those individuals you can’t see this Christmas next year.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.


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