The holidays can be an especially difficult time for relationships. Isn’t it interesting how a time we have specifically designated for joy and peace often becomes filled with stress, anger, and pain? During these moments, we need to be able to communicate well, manage tense situations, and work through them together.

Here are a few tips that I personally have found useful. These are tailored for situations involving conflict, but in actuality I use them even during normal everyday conversations. Improved communication is always a good thing.

  1. Put down the phone. I know it seems like technology has made communication easier. But texting someone while in the grip of a strong emotion is not ever a good idea. When you need to communicate an idea, thought, or feeling, the best way to do it is in person.
  2. Respect the other person when they’re speaking. Be willing to listen and hear them out. Give them time to say what they need to say, and then you will have your turn.
  3. Listen to their words, but also pay attention to tone of voice and body language. Eighty percent of our communication is nonverbal. Think about your own body language, your tone of voice. What are you communicating nonverbally?
  4. Respect. This is so important that it deserves another mention. While we often think of respect as something that is earned, if we want to be listened to and heard properly, we must be willing to offer the same level of respect to the other person.
  5. Emotional outbursts damage communication. If you feel you’re about to scream, take five and go into another room. Take a few deep breaths, let out the tears for a moment, whatever you need to do. Don’t do it in front of the other person. Give yourself the space you need to calm down.
  6. Speak clearly. Think about what you want to say before you speak. Is what you’re about to say helpful? Does it effectively state what you want to get across? Sometimes writing it out first is helpful to get your thoughts in order and to process some of the emotion.
  7. Remember that effective communication is about building the bond you share with a person. Use language that builds up, not tears down. If you’re angry, wait until you’re calmer. Use “I” statements such as “I feel” or “I was hurt by” instead of accusatory lines that would make the other person defensive. It’s much easier for them to understand where you’re coming from if they can see from your perspective.
  8. Keep it simple. If there’s something you’ve already gotten over, leave it there. Love keeps no record of wrongs. If there’s something that happened ten months back that’s still nagging you but you never brought it up, don’t do it now.
  9. Be willing to apologize. It takes more than one person for conflict to happen. Everyone involved must be willing to take responsibility for their part.

And my final tip for everyone: When you say you’ve forgiven the other person, truly mean it. Forgiveness is not a word to toss around lightly. Let go of the anger, let go of the situation, and trust that it is in God’s hands.

I pray that as we transition deeper into the holiday season, your relationships are strengthened through good communication with others. I pray peace over your families, your homes, your work and school. I ask the Lord to bless you and bring you joy.

You are loved.