Christine Park

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Surviving Family Get-Togethers

I love my in-laws. I really do. My husband's side of the family has been kind, loving, and generous from the moment I met them when we were dating a decade ago. My mother-in-law keeps my freezer stocked with Korean food, which is very labor intensive, so my husband can get a taste of home on any given day with minimal effort on my part. And my sister-in-law, my brother's wife, is a dream. She is the most amazing auntie to my kids and she's an amazing cook. In fact, she is cooking up a Thanksgiving feast in my kitchen as we speak. I can't wait to sample her homemade pies and creamed corn and famous (or infamous) mac 'n' cheese (with bacon!)

But my TV husband, that's my male co-anchor for those of you not in the biz, showed me a hilarious Yahoo article he found about avoiding holiday family fights. The author explains how to manage 15 different and difficult personalities all clashing around the holiday dinner table.

I had a good laugh reading it, and you may too, because we all know a great aunt or second cousin (twice removed) who falls into one of these categories. Or maybe you do! Thanks to Real Simple blogger Amanda Hinnant for these tips.

The “Constructive” Criticizer: Often heard saying: “When I was in your situation, I knew exactly what I had to do.”
The offense: Gives you unsolicited advice about everything from raising your kids to raising your hemline.
Your course of action: “The criticizer relies on his ability to bait you,” says Sue Fox, author of Etiquette for Dummies ($22, Don’t take the bait. Thank him, point out facts he may have overlooked, and move on. If he keeps offering barbed comments disguised as advice, Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave ($15,, suggests cutting him off with a breezy “Don’t worry about me—I’m fine!”
The Slacker: Often heard saying: “Yup, just a sec...I’ll be riiiight in.”
The offense: Refuses to help with the cooking, cleaning, child care, or even candle-lighting.
Your course of action: “Entertain the possibility that this person doesn’t realize anyone needs help, or perhaps he’s worried that if he were given a task to complete, he’d fail,” says Tiger. Give him precise instructions, something like “Vincent, it would be a great help if you went ahead and started rinsing the dishes. Let me get you an apron.”
The Cheerleader: Often heard saying: Anything with exclamation points. “Hey, guys! Let’s bundle up and go caroling in the snow!”
The offense: Hurls herself into the holiday spirit, donning seasonal sweaters with more doodads than a junk drawer.
Your course of action: If you’re not in the mood or if her joyousness feels forced, the cheerleader can be extremely irritating, says Fox. Don’t attempt to dampen her good cheer (she likes being the center of attention), but don’t let her cow you into wearing felt antlers to the table, either. Just keep your distance.
The Exaggerator: Often heard saying: “The Feds said the raid could not have gone down without my tip.”
The offense: Chronically oversells achievements, work situations, children’s accomplishments, size of fish caught.
Your course of action: “It’s rude to embarrass a guest who might be exaggerating due to feeling insecure,” says Tiger. “A little hyperbole on his part isn’t too much for you to endure if it makes him feel more comfortable.” Besides, everyone else at the table probably sees right through him, too, points out Barry Greenwald, Ph.D., associate professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The Martyr: Often heard saying: Nothing. She’s still in the kitchen, slaving away over a hot stove.
The offense: Lets everyone know just how many potatoes she had to peel—and shows the blisters to prove it.
Your course of action: When she begins listing her suppertime sacrifices, interrupt with “And that is why you deserve to relax for the evening.” All you can do is ask if she needs help—if only to assure yourself that you tried. “She is obviously getting something she needs out of this, be it satisfaction or superiority,” says Tiger.
Keep reading, and see how to deal with your family's Bully, Gossip, Grinch, Drunk Uncle, and more! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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