The holiday season brings equal amounts of joy and dread for many of us. While there’s no perfect family, holidays and celebrations often bring out the worst behaviors.
Once during a festive event, I found myself holding a friend’s newborn baby. An older man wandered up, smiled and said, “Whose baby is that? It can’t be yours. You’re too old to have a baby!”
Before I could respond, a friend standing nearby stomped on his foot with her four-inch heels. “You’re rude,” she said. “Get away and don’t come back.” The man limped off.
Many of us struggle to handle rude, mean, or inebriated relatives or friends. But if the goal is to enjoy our holidays — and it should be — read on for a few ways to navigate some of the most challenging personalities out there.
The Uncle Who Likes a Few Too Many
Expectations are usually one of the biggest culprits, according to Angela McKinney, a certified “mindset coach” who works with clients in addiction recovery in South Orange, New Jersey. She helps people weather their often stormy family dynamics.
McKinney recommends imagining those who act out as suffering from an actual physical condition. This is especially helpful with alcoholics and addicts. “Would you expect a person who has Tourette’s syndrome, for example, to suddenly stop their behavior? Of course not. So why do you expect alcoholics to stop their horrible behavior? They are going to do what they are going to do, regardless.”
In other words — let it go. Changing your expectations allows you to choose a better response.
The Meddling Mother-in-Law (or Aunt, Sister, or Cousin)
Prepare ahead of time for this nosy person and any others like her.
“Remember there’s a difference between secrecy and privacy,” Dr. Jennifer Bliss, clinical director of the Independent Adoption Center in Concord, California, told LifeZette.
“You have every right to decide what to share with others. Set up boundaries ahead of time, and be prepared for questions that are too personal. Most of all, learn to shift topics to something you are comfortable talking about.”
A standard response can be, “That’s a little personal and I’m not prepared to discuss that today. Did you see George’s funny sweater?”
For these people, their children are brighter than any other children, they are more successful than anyone else, and the world will pretty much stop if they aren’t there to keep it whirling.
Narcissists have an uncanny way of turning the conversation back to them and their brilliance.
Brag. Brag. Brag.
Realize that narcissists are desperately trying to cover up their many inadequacies and misgivings.
The Political Know-It-All
There’s no discussion or debate with this personality type — it’s their way or the highway. These are the self-proclaimed experts who miraculously have the only correct perception of the present and vision of the future. They love to pontificate. They’re always right and everyone with a different opinion is dead wrong. It’s very simple!
“They will be rude, disrespectful, and dismissive,” McKinney, the life coach, said. Never take it personally. It’s not that they don’t hear your opinion — it’s that they can’t hear anyone who differs from their “rightness.”
Be sure to see their inability to have an open discussion as their problem — and leave them to it.
This person is the ultimate Scrooge. He or she is always negative at any and all events — no matter how festive. When the conversation rotates to these people at the dinner table, they depress everyone with their latest woe-is-me or victimization story.
The naysayer is really out to drag everyone down. One person I know had a relative who always greeted her with the lovely words, “You’re getting heavier!” or “I see you are fatter this year!”
She learned to jab back — and finally he got the hint.
You might be inclined to put all of these irritating personality types in a separate room at their own private dinner table over the holidays — where they could all enjoy each other’s company! But Bliss’s guidance might be better: “Do not let the negative energy of a few people pull you down. Remember what you love about the holidays — and make decisions to create those kinds of memories.”
Pat Barone, MCC, is a professional credentialed coach and author of the Own Every Bite! bodycentric re-education program for mindful and intuitive eating.