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Festive Family Dynamics

By Dr Vesna Grubacevic

As the festive season approaches are you looking forward to or dreading your family gatherings?  Would you like to understand how to better deal with family dynamics and make this a truly festive season?

Every family has its own dynamics – sometimes these are positive and sometimes these can be negative.  Below you will find tips on dealing with three common family dynamics this festive season.

Look at me!

Is there a member of your family who loves being the centre of attention – who does all the talking at family gatherings, who enjoys talking about themselves and loves to show off their latest gadgets, etc?  If you completely ignore this family member, they will probably get louder and show off more as their need for attention is not being met. 

Rather than getting frustrated by this family member, realize that often their need for attention is based on their own insecurities.  It is the person who has no need to shout and show off, who is most happiest within.  They know internally who they are, and others’ approval or impressing others is not important to them. 

The best way to deal with this family member is to appreciate that their behaviour is a reflection of their self belief, and to avoid taking it personally.  However, if this family member pushes your buttons, then you need to look at and address those so that you stop overreacting to their behaviour.

The Button Pusher

Some family members unconsciously push your “buttons” without even realizing it.  Others may know exactly which buttons to push and do it intentionally in order to get a response from you e.g. you overreacting with anger, hurt, jealousy, guilt, etc.  Often this can be done in jest at someone else’s expense or via subtle or veiled criticism.

The most important thing for you to realize is that other people can only push your button (either consciously or unconsciously) if you have buttons to push.  In the absence of those buttons, they will get frustrated as they go to run the same behaviour, and find you either being neutral in your response or responding in an unexpected way.  Therefore, the best way for you to deal with this personality in your family is to address your buttons.

The Doomsayer

Do you have a family member who is constantly negative, doom and gloom, criticizes others and rains on their parade?  This family member’s negativity reflects their own beliefs about the world and themselves.  If they are critical of others, they are probably even more critical of themselves; if they are raining on your parade, they are also raining on their own parade.  Therefore, avoid taking their comments personally. 

At the same time, for as long as you remain a bystander and watch the negativity and you do nothing about it, the longer you will indirectly encourage that behaviour, and disempower yourself and others.  A quick way to interrupt the negativity is to do something that shocks or surprises the negative person, thus interrupting their train of thought. 

Carefully watch the person and the moment you notice that they are about to start a negative dialogue, interrupt it right away (e.g. changing the topic, getting them to think about or focus on something else).  The more negative they are, the more often you may need to repeat this, and the bigger the interruption may need to be. 

Joyous Family Gatherings

So instead of dreading those festive family gatherings, you can now go along to these events prepared to subtly change the family dynamics in an empowering way, and have a merrier and joyous time.

Please email me if you have any questions and if you need any additional support.

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