OK, he can go now

Don't let troublesome guests get away with bad behavior

Don't let troublesome guests get away with bad behavior

December 01, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Experts say "just ignore him" is the worst advice one could offer to anyone who faces a guest-zilla - the repugnant, manners-impaired, sometimes scary, conflict-causing houseguest who invariably emerges around the holidays and likes to linger in your home causing drama.

This person could be comparable to Owen Wilson's annoying houseguest in the new-on-DVD movie "You, Me and Dupree." Or it could be that nagging mother-in-law complaining about your drapes or the well-intentioned aunt known for asking why you are older than 30 and still unmarried.

Four times. Over the course of three hours.

Whomever it is and whatever they say or do, experts say the holidays are high time for guest-zillas. And if you aren't versed in proper ways to resolve and address (not ignore) conflict, you risk making matters worse.

"Avoidance is not a good measure," said Valerie Main, executive director of the Washington County Community Mediation Center. "When you avoid it, it piles up. Conflict escalates. It could become the straw that breaks the camel's back."


The nonprofit Mediation Center trains volunteers to become experts in conflict resolution. People can call the center if they need help resolving a conflict, which could involve close friends or family members.

When a tense situation arises, Main recommends calmly addressing the issue firsthand, letting the other person involved in the conflict know how his or her actions were hurtful.

"Get to the bottom line," Main said. "If people can concentrate on asking open-ended questions, you can find out what was really going on."

Main said she had seen a sharp increase in the number of calls to her office in Hagerstown this fall, more than what she had seen last year.

"We're swamped," she said. "I think a lot of conflict goes on, but, I think, during the holidays, people don't reach out because there's so much else going on in people's lives."

When people are forced to be around people with whom they aren't compatible, clinical psychologist Marie Guedenet recommends exerting self-control and reaching a mutual agreement to keep the peace.

"It's inevitable and probably likely to arise during the holidays," said Guedenet, who has offices in Keedysville and Hagerstown. "But I believe also that we need to be in control of it. Ultimately, you need to be in control of yourself."

How to address conflict peacefully

The holiday season has arrived, which can mean more stress and more conflict. Valerie Main, executive director of the Washington County Community Mediation Center, shares a few tips for keeping the peace this holiday season:

· Think carefully about what is bothering you and what you'd like to have happen to settle the situation.

· When you disagree, speak in a calm, respectful manner. Explain your point of view. Ask for the other person's ideas and listen carefully.

· Remember that your gestures and tone of voice often show how you feel; it's not just words.

· Avoid telling the other person what they should or should not do. Emphasize what's important to you and express your needs and wants.

· If you can't resolve the conflict, consider bringing in a mediator.

For more information, contact the Washington County Community Mediation Center at 301-665-9262 or visit

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