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Keeping the peace during the holidays: why empathy is key

Keeping the peace during the holidays: why empathy is key

TORONTO, December 9, 2019 –Some may think of it as the nightmare before Christmas; from the snide comments to grudges, 'tis the season for family feuds and conflict. But why do families butt heads at this time of year?

 “When you are in the same physical environment, for a longer than usual amount of time, without truly having any say about who is there and for how long, you start to see personality shortcomings and be bothered by behaviours. In everyday life you can distance yourself from them, but not necessarily during the holidays,” says Ami Rokach, instructor in the department of psychology, Faculty of Health and a clinical psychologist.

Rokach, whose research includes work on loneliness, anxiety and phobias, death and dying, human sexuality and stress management, adds that empathy can go a long way in diffusing conflict before it happens.

“Empathy is listening and getting a ‘feel’ of what the other person is saying or feeling. You may or may not agree, or even care about their point of view, but showing that you cared enough to listen and understand what they meant, can calm them down considerably,” says Rokach.

He is available for interviews via phone, email or Skype and can comment on the following:

  • Why the holidays can be a time that families butt heads
  • How to use empathy to manage conflict with in-laws or other relatives
  • How loneliness can be a factor during the holidays
  • How to handle loneliness following a family gathering

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Media Contact: Anjum Nayyar, York University Media Relations, 416-736-2100 ext. 44543,