This year's election season has been unprecedented in many ways, and everyone seems to agree that it was one of the most contentious in recent memory. Conflict of any kind creates stress, which manifests emotionally and physically. Add the holidays, family dynamics, a difference of opinion, and your winter celebrations could be anything but joyful.

"When difficult conversations turn toxic, it’s often because we’ve made a key mistake: we’ve fallen into a combat mentality," writes Sarah Green Carmichael in the Harvard Business Review. "This allows the conversation to become a zero-sum game, with a winner and a loser. But the reality is, when we let conversations take on this tenor – especially at the office – everyone looks bad, and everyone loses. The real enemy is not your conversational counterpart, but the combat mentality itself. And you can defeat it, with strategy and skill."

Carmichael describes 9 common mistakes everyone can make when venturing into the tricky territory of, say, politics. They range from oversimplifying the problem, to getting hooked, to making assumptions about the other person's intentions. "When we’re caught off-guard, we’re more likely to fall back into old, ineffective habits like the combat mentality," Carmichael writes. "If you’re not the one initiating the tough conversation, or if a problem erupts out of nowhere, stick to these basics: keep your content clear, keep your tone neutral, and keep your phrasing temperate."