How to Avoid Holiday Family Fights

Tis the season for…family fights? Learn how to manage classic difficult family personalities.


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. Thank him, point out facts he may have overlooked, and move on. If he keeps offering barbed comments disguised as advice, cut 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, childcare, etc.
Your course of action: Give him precise instructions, like “Vincent, it would be a great help if you went ahead and started rinsing the dishes. Let me get you an apron.”


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.


The Passive-Aggressor – Often heard saying: “Whatever you think is best.”
The offense: Follows every shred of opinion with a question mark. Knows what she wants but tells you after the fact.
Your course of action: This person is wounded because you haven’t been able to read her mind. Her behavior is a subtle manipulative device that she is probably totally unaware of. Get past the after-the-fact guilt and ask her to be clear the next time. Say something along the lines of “If you let me know next year what kind of pie you prefer, I’ll put it on the menu.”


The Bully – Often heard saying: “Everyone knows you got the beauty and your brother got the brains.”
The offense: Doesn’t pick on people his own size. Hurts others’ feelings.
Your course of action: The bully uses mockery as a way of connecting with others. Don’t play his game. Do stand up for yourself with something like, “And you obviously got the charm.”


The Grinch – Often heard saying:  “Kids, don’t get too comfortable-this is just a pit stop.”
The offense: Hates everything. Doesn’t get that whole “quality time” thing. Prefers the game on TV to the gathering in the next room.
Your course of action: Let him know he can RSVP with a no, “since I know how hard these kinds of get-togethers can be for you.” If you want to spend time with him that day, try a gentle plea, like “I’d love to catch up with you-how about turning off the game and going for a quick walk?” Specify an activity with a time limit.