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Guide to a Stress-Free Holiday

How to Avoid Holiday Family Fights

’Tis the season fights? Learn how to manage 15 classic difficult family personalities.

By Amanda Hinnant

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.

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,” says Greenwald. 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 Oversharer

Often heard saying: “The doctor doesn’t know what it is, but it itches like a mother...want to see?”
The offense: Passes around gory details like so many candied yams. Doesn’t know what is appropriate table talk.
Your course of action: “Often this person makes many social blunders and believes people want to know what he has been through,” Greenwald says. Gently change the subject. Tiger suggests offering a related topic, such as “I hear sciatica can be very uncomfortable—especially when you’re pregnant. Grace, when is your daughter-in-law due?”

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