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Field Notes for the Holiday Season

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By Dr. Lawana R. Lofton, PsyD -

Season’s Greetings! The holiday season is great for many reasons. The TOP 2 reasons on my list would be that most people are in a joyful festive mood, and secondly it allows for greater opportunity to meet with others socially. During the holiday season there are numerous parties to attend, community events, gift exchanges, or volunteering, and because it is the holidays many take vacation days or are on “Holiday Paid Leave” from work. Meaning everyone, all at the same time, have but one shared focus…….the holidays!

Sound perfect? What could be better than holiday induced feel-good neurotransmitters firing most of the day for everyone, helping us all be in a blissful mood while spending quality time with our loved ones?

Yes it would be perfect in an ideal world although in reality over the holiday season we are likely to encounter some shenanigans from others. Even a less than enthusiastic family member and maneuvering politely will require some specific communication strategies. And yes, it is quite possible we may encounter others who may be difficult to communicate with all together.

The same time last year strategies to help communicate with difficult people was made available and will surely come in handy this year as well.

Communication expert, Sandra A. Crowe, MA., author of "Since Strangling Isn't an Option," states that "difficult" people fall into very distinct types. Once you know which type "Aunt Betty," or the bothersome "Mother in-law Claudia" is, just use these proven strategies to have them eating out of your hand:

The Master of Sarcasm
This is the brother who, when you show up a minute late responds by saying, "My, we're punctual." Often he believes jabbing is a way of showing affection, but that does not make their remarks any nicer.
Sure-fire Strategy: Respond with "Thanks!" Or, "I like you, too." Generally, they will laugh and feel a bit embarrassed.

The Gabber
Know that sister-in-law who corners you in the kitchen only to rattle on and on about her life?
Sure-fire Strategy: Gabbers have trouble organizing their thoughts, so it is up to you to get things back on track by rephrasing for them - "So you're telling me…." Once they are refocused, you will be able to move on.

The Know it All
This person is easy to spot. Maybe the sister who gets insulted when you offer some input on how to solve a problem her child is having.
Sure-fire Strategy: Know-it-alls are insecure. So if you try to convince them of something, all you will get is an argument. Instead, agree with them whenever you can. They will feel validated, and more open to what you have to say.

The Complainer
Have a relative who needs to share every problem, even when the solution seems obvious?
Sure-fire Strategy: Complainers want your attention. There are two ways to go with them. One, set a time limit on how long you will listen …."I've only got a minute." Or two, ask questions like "What do you think you could do about that?" which will frustrate them so much, they will stop complaining.

The Backstabber
This type is often a flatterer - to your face at least!
Sure-fire Strategy: Take the Backstabber aside and tell them "I understand you said [ x ] about me. Is that true?" Usually, they will hem and haw, and finally apologize. And, they will be less likely to do it again.

The Waffler
Can't finalize your holiday schedule because a relative keeps postponing a decision on holiday plans?
Sure-fire Strategy: Wafflers do not trust themselves to make choices, usually because in the past they made bad ones. But you can get past their reluctance to commit by giving them options such as "We can do [ x ] or [ y]." By taking some of the pressure off, you will help the Waffler stop their foot-dragging.

Reference: Sandra A. Crowe, MA. “Since Strangling Isn't An Option... Dealing with Difficult People -- Common Problems and Uncommon Solutions.” (1999).

Recommended Reading: Dr. Lawana Rene’ Lofton. “Psychological Précipice: The Psychological Pursuit To Find The Best In You.” (2009).

Until Next Time: a’ Donf

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