Making Peace: Navigating Tension Spots at the Holiday Dinner Table


Every year I love watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It Makes Me Laugh Every Single Time! There are so many cringe worthy moments in the movie. These moments are tension spots where they are trying to work around everyone’s idiosyncrasies.

In the movie, they are funny but in real life…not so much.

In real life, everyone’s idiosyncracies can be tension spots around the holiday dinner table. I can think immediately about tension spots that have come up holiday events I have been to. They have included someone bringing up politics, mentioning a gifted item already owned, disagreeing about a faith belief… You get the point.

What choice do you have to make peace within these tension spots? There may be times when some of these things can be discussed in a certain context, but often the holiday dinner table is not the best place for this.  So let’s talk about how to bring peace to the tension spots. Some of these can be simple and others a little more challenging. Here are:

7 Things that Can Be Done to Bring Peace in the Tension Spots:

1)Decide on a seating arrangement for people who can sit together with like interests

This sets up your guests to enjoy each other’s company instead of mixing like oil and water and rubbing each other the wrong way.

2)Talk to people ahead of time that have a tendency to bring up tension spots

Ask them if there might be a better time to talk about those topics with others.

3)Have light hearted discussion prompts ready

There are so many light hearted and fun things to talk about including favorite traditions, trivia, funniest Christmas memory. Let’s focus on these things.

4)Keep alcohol to a minimum

Let’s face it, some of us react better then others when it comes to alcohol. Alcohol can loosen tongues or mess with emotions in a way that takes us away from peace.

5)Atmosphere and the tone you set in the atmosphere make a difference

As the host you have the chance to set a positive atmosphere with tone of voice, decor, music, etc. Take the time to set that atmosphere.

6)Don’t assume that you can have dinner together with everyone

There may be some people that you need to get together with at a different time.  Or there may be others to not invite at all because this person just tends to cause tension. Weigh those things as you are deciding who to invite.

You may be wondering what to do if you are not the host. In that case, talk to the host ahead. Share your concerns. Offer support and suggestions for dealing with the concern. This will probably be a relief to them.

Then, after your planning and preparation, it’s important to let go. There are some dynamics that cannot be controlled. It is not up to you to make sure there is no tension. It’s up to you do the best you can. And let others do the best they can too.


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