Holidays Filled with Wacky Relatives

Last week I met up with my friend Sue who’d spent Thanksgiving on a cruise with her extended family. She had a dinner’s worth of stories — sweet, funny, and whack-a-do! Story begat story and soon we were outdoing each other with outrageous tales of family holidays past. We laughed, we cried, we sighed as we reflected on the poignancy and downright lunacy of our families!

As a result of my dinner with Sue, I’ve decided to spend this month’s columns reflecting on the holidays, trying mightily to avoid the clichés of Top 10 lists and anything that‘s a tad too Hallmark-y.

While I’m not sure I can tell you how to “survive” the holidays, I will remind you of something crucial that you mustn’t lose sight of: people are consistent in what they say and do.

Think on this Thanksgiving. If you shared it with people whom you shared it last year, I’m sure their behavior was much the same. The most obnoxious person from last year probably was just as obnoxious this year. Whoever fell asleep watching TV in the living room last year, most likely fell asleep this year. And the person who bored you to tears this year I’m sure did so last Thanksgiving.

People don’t change. Holiday celebrations take on rituals of their own, within which we each play a role.

Given that, what should you do with the relatives that drive you batty, if not to tears? Change. Change the way in which you deal with them because, if you don’t change, and they’re not going to change, then nothing is going to change and the 2012 holidays will again end up being from hell!

Here’s what to do. First think about who’s on your “naughty” (substitute stronger word) list. How do they press your buttons? Why do they have the ability to press those buttons? Once you’re aware of what they’re doing, then you can decide if you are going to allow them to upset you.

Understand that it really is a game. Consciously or unconsciously you and the other person are doing a relationship dance. Don’t like the dance? Then change your steps. For instance, if someone asks you a rude or seemingly insulting question, rather than getting angry just play dumb. Pretend you don’t understand what they mean and ask them to explain themselves. They’ll become flustered.

Are you at the table with someone who has a history of deliberately riling you up? Laugh instead of getting annoyed. Do not give them what they want (your annoyance) and they’ll become frustrated and eventually move on to some other hapless celebrant.

You can make the holidays cheery and bright OR miserable and bleak!

Please send your questions to JP Reynolds at jp@jpr-communications.com.