Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Avoiding Conflict: 10 Suggestions for the Holidays

After hosting one family celebration too many, a woman threw a cookbook at her sister-in-law and screamed: “Maybe now you can cook a holiday dinner for us sometime.”

One young man drank too much at his company’s holiday party, cursed out his boss, and was fired on the spot.

A woman did not respond to an invitation to a neighbor’s holiday celebration. She showed up at the party, but there were no gifts for her children as the host did not know they were coming.

With the holiday season here again, there are lots of opportunities for gift-giving, party-going, and joyful celebrating. But, as the above stories illustrate, there are also lots of opportunities for conflict and difficulties.

In my assertiveness seminars, I ask people to discuss their conflicts. Many concern the holidays, and these conflicts drive people crazy. Review this list and make sure you are aware of these “polite and powerful” ways to reduce the likelihood of holiday conflict:

1. Do your fair share.  One of the biggest complaints involves family members who are Holiday Meal Moochers. They don’t offer to host a meal, they don’t offer to help clean up, and they don’t bring anything to the meal.  Offer to help. Even if your sister loves hosting the holiday meal every year, make sure you find out how you can contribute.

2. Stay sober. Generally, a lot of liquor is served at celebrations during the holidays, and sometimes people can drink too much. That’s when they are likely to say and do things that cause problems for themselves and others. Limit your alcohol intake, and your holiday celebrating is less likely to be a problem.

3. Share family time graciously.  With divorce, remarriage, and families scattered across the country, sharing the holidays with family members can be a difficult juggling act. Divorced parents often fight over who is going to spend time with the kids, and when. If possible, be inclusive of others. If that is not possible, devise a fair rotation and keep to it.  

4. Respond to RSVPs.  Failing to respond to an invitation that requests “RSVP” and then showing up at the event, or saying that you will attend and then not showing up, are both inconsiderate behaviors that cause problems for the host. Always reply to an invitation, whether it is to accept or to decline. If you accept but then cannot attend because an unavoidable conflict develops at the last minute, telephone (do not text) the host and explain.

5. Don’t post inappropriate photos on social media. When people are celebrating, some of them may get carried away and post photos from parties or other events that are not public. Often, the people being tagged in those photos would prefer that the images remain private. To avoid online conflict, err on the side of caution. Ask the people in your photos if it’s okay to post them. And when in doubt, don’t put the photo out there! 

6. Avoid gift-giving gaffes.  Gifts are supposed to make people feel good, but unfortunately gift-giving can cause a lot of problems.  People who give inappropriate gifts to others – such as items that are too personal for co-workers – may cause conflict at work. Know what is appropriate for your workplace. Plus, make sure you show appreciation for any gift you receive. Say thank you, and also write thank-you notes.  

7. Don’t become a holiday slacker. Co-workers who take three-hour lunches to finish holiday shopping, or who call in sick to avoid working the holiday, make the holidays more stressful for their colleagues.  The old “golden rule” still applies – treat others as you would want to be treated.  

8. Participate. Don’t be the person who refuses to celebrate or get into the holiday spirit.  People who constantly complain about the holidays cause stress for everyone around them.  You don’t want to be labeled “Scrooge.” Attend the party hosted by your department, or your neighbor.  Participate in group gifts. Wish people happy holidays.

9. Be a courteous shopper. Most people have a lot of shopping to do during the holidays. Often, they are rushed, stressed, and surrounded by crowds – which means tempers can flare.  Before you “lose it” at the perfume counter, take a deep breath.  Ask yourself, “Is this really worth getting upset about?” or “Does this person really mean to be a jerk or is he just really stressed out, too?” This will help you to stay calm, and may help the other shopper, too.

10. Remember the true meaning of the holidays. With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, it’s easy to think that the holidays are all about material things.  People who focus on giving to others, being with family, and doing nice things for other people are the people who enjoy the holidays with the least amount of conflict. 

Additional information on avoiding conflict can be found in my books, The Power of Positive Confrontation and The Essentials of Business Etiquette. 

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on communication and etiquette. For additional information, contact Joyce Hoff  at 856.751.6141 or joyce 


  1. I really wish more people would read this! I certainly lack the sense of holiday cheer when I venture out to the supermarket or if I'm witnessing a family argument around the dinner table!

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  3. I truly wish more individuals would read this, here is more I unquestionably do not have the feeling of occasion cheer when I wander out to the grocery store or in case I'm seeing a family contention around the supper table!

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