The Holidays Are Coming!
For many people, that means increased contact
with family and extended family members…
a source of love and support for some,
a source of stress and aggravation for others.
If you’re dreading seeing family for holiday
get-togethers, there’s help for you.
Avoid An Emotional Ditch
In any territory, having a map can really help
you to navigate the terrain and help you avoid
ending up in a ditch. Family get-togethers are
no exception…and I’m assuming you would like
to avoid ending up in an emotional ditch on the
holidays, am I right?
You Need A Personality Map
Here’s a simple “map of personality styles”
originally developed by Karen Horney, and
later expanded upon by many others, that
may help with this family navigation.
According to Horney, there were three basic
styles of being in the world that people can use.
Often people end up adopting one as an almost
exclusive or rigid way of being in the world.
3 Basic Personality Styles
1. Moving Away from Others (passive)
2. Moving Toward Others (assertive)
3. Moving Against Others (aggressive)
There are different strategies that you can use
to more effectively navigate around people with
these different styles.
Let’s Deal With Reality…
The ideal situation is that you have yourself
adopted a Moving Toward Others style and all
the people in your family gathering also have that
style and so you can all interact in an open, honest,
assertive and respectful way with each other.
Okay, now we’re going to deal with reality.
Neither you, nor most of the people you will be
interacting with, may have the Moving Toward Others
personality orientation. So what do you do?
To Work With A Moving Away Personality:
To successfully navigate with a person who is withdrawn
and passive, ask questions and make a genuine effort to
connect…about whatever that person is interested in.
Try to do this without taking responsibility for the
Moving Away person’s feelings (don’t feel like you have
to “cheer them up” or get them involved in activities)
Don’t take on trying to solve their problems.
You can also give that person their “space” without
taking it personally. Not everyone likes to socialize,
or is comfortable in large gatherings, and that’s okay.
To Work With a Moving Against Personality:
To successfully navigate with someone who can be
aggressive, critical, or who needs to have a lot of
attention just requires that you know the territory.
Put this person at ease with a compliment, be okay
with “agreeing to disagree” about things, allow this
person to have the “last word,” and do not engage in
“hand to hand” verbal combat. You will likely lose,
and even if you don’t, everyone else present does.
You can stop arguments with “That’s what I love
about you, Uncle Bob, you are so passionate about
your politics.” Learn how to make graceful exits…
“Is that the doorbell? I’m expecting an important
phone call…please excuse me!” Promise yourself
something really nice for getting through the next
___ minutes/hours/days with this person.
If YOU Are A Moving Away Personality:
When it’s difficult for you to be social with others,
family gatherings can be excruciating marathon events.
Prepare yourself in advance by thinking of one thing
that you can connect with each family member about
so you have something to talk about with each person.
Consider planning an activity, craft, or game that
you enjoy that allows for a focus for the family.
Give yourself permission to take space and time
as you need it. Be sure to let people know you are
“okay,” you just need a little fresh air or want to
take a walk. It’s okay to honor your needs, while
still being sensitive to the needs of others.
If YOU Are a Moving Against Personality:
Try to see people in as favorable a light as you can.
Instead of seeing them as “against” you, perhaps you
can just allow them to be who they are, flaws and all.
Look for the positive intention behind comments
and actions, even if they “hit you the wrong way”
initially. Count to 10, go take a walk and cool off
before you become defensive and engage in a fight.
Find one nice thing to say to every person you are with.
During conversations, instead of “one-upping” others,
try listening and asking respectful questions to draw
that person out more.
Make it a goal for everyone to have an enjoyable
time…whatever that means to each person!
If You Get Lost, Use Your Map!
If you find yourself frustrated, angry, upset, defensive,
feeling manipulated or guilted, criticized, or judged
by someone during a family gathering…don’t react!
You’ve just gotten a little lost. Get out your map!
What kind of personality are you?
What do you need to be doing differently?
What kind of personality are you dealing with?
How do you need to be approaching that person?
If all that fails, maybe you have fallen through a
wormhole and are in another dimension…
I don’t have the map for that one yet!
But seriously, the holidays come once a year…
they are survivable, no matter what. Just
get through them…and reward yourself nicely
for being your best self with your family. 🙂