l. Thou shall zip it
Learn to think before you speak. Bite your tongue before that provocative remark comes out of your mouth and you get embroiled in a huge fight.
2. Thou shalt clean thy spleen
Write a really hateful, nasty letter to your family, telling them all your resentments and rages. Drop the letter into your personal "dead letter box"; and move on with a smile on your face. :)
3. Thou shalt listen. Thou shalt not dispute
Hey, words are only words! Sometimes people vent frustration in inappropriate ways by going on wild diatribes. Don't get sucked down to their level.
When your Mom blows her top and starts howling about the time you came home late when you were nineteen and how you never come to see her any more and how Mrs. Johnson's daughter is such a better daughter than you... you can hear her out and simply say, "I'm sorry you feel that way."
When your mom cools off, she'll probably feel bad, but you won't have to. Avoiding that tit-for-tat argument kept you from having to spend a week in the "burn center."
4. Thou shalt remember: Good fences make for good family relationships
Create boundaries, set limits. You know how much contact you can take and how much will ignite your internal nuclear bomb.
5. Thou shalt remember occasions and events
It costs merely 34 cents postage by snail mail, zip if your family's on e-mail, to remember birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa. Whatever the occasion, a card makes people feel remembered, and when people feel remembered, they feel loved and hence, another feud is avoided.
6. Thou shalt not overreact, ever
When family members feel neglected, they often will present a scenario that invites your overreaction. Invites? Heck, BEGS for it! But remember -- overreactions can cause all-out wars. Don't do it!
7. Thou shalt give in
If you want to win the war (or in our case, avoid the war all together), sometimes it's strategically advantageous to lose the battle. Assess a family situation carefully, strategize, and weigh your gains and loses in any given situation.
For example, if your ageing mom needs a weekly phone call to avoid starting a fight with you, why not give it to her? Is the inconvenience of the call really weightier than the inconvenience of a brawl?
Practice artful dodging if necessary, call when you know she won't be there and leave a message telling her you love her and miss her. A little can go a long way.
8. Thou shalt let brevity and paucity be thy motto
In volatile families, keeping contact limited and utilizing a cordial and polite silence to avoid fights, can often extinguish the flames of conflict.
Again, artful dodging is a useful tool. If your Dad calls and you can tell he's looking for trouble: "Got to go Dad, the Pastor's at the door for his annual visit. Speak to you later!"
9. Thou shalt chant: "What you see is what you get."
Do not ever try to change your relatives. Remember, people can change themselves, but we cannot force another to change.
Accept your family for who they are, whether you like them or not: trying to change another causes battles, poor self-esteem (because you're trying to do something that can't be done and are doomed to failure), and depression.
10. Thou shalt stay in the driver's seat
Take control of potentially volatile family situations and take charge of managing them. For example, if you come from an alcoholic family and you know that going out to dinner means that cocktail hour is the main course and family flambe is the dessert, arrange breakfast meetings where drinking won't occur.