The holidays are upon us and with a global pandemic as the backdrop and the aftermath of the US elections clouding the air, it’s easy to see how that beautiful Norman Rockwell holiday season could easily degenerate into a family civil war. Even if your political and world views don’t align, there are plenty of tools to help you navigate challenging family gatherings. Here’s a guide to avoid a family argument based on your Enneagram type.
You can get a little trapped in your need to be right, and your drive to prove everyone else wrong can ruin a family dinner. When you catch yourself getting fired up to shoot down someone else’s opinion, pause and calmly ask yourself “I wonder why they think that way?”
It may be true you have a PhD in infectious diseases, and your 80-year old Aunt Sally just said she thinks the coronavirus is a hoax, but take a deep breath and ask her about her opinion. You don’t have to agree with her, you just need to listen with genuine curiosity. You grow when you move from critical mind to curious mind and when you have space for compassion and multiple perspectives.
You lose your way when you try to keep everyone happy and get overly involved in other people’s dynamics. We know you are sensitive, and it feels threatening to see people you love not getting along, but you just make things worse when you try to force a good time.
It’s OK if Grandpa Peter doesn’t talk with Uncle Bob. Respect that your family members have their own boundaries and let them stay disengaged from each other. You grow when you focus on yourself so if you notice you are feeling stressed and tense, practice some self-care.
You sometimes feel like your reputation is at stake when it actually isn’t, and you can get overly focused on appearances. If your family doesn’t ask enough questions about your new promotion or doesn’t seem to notice that the holiday tree is perfectly decorated, don’t be offended. Your value isn’t tied up in these material things. Your family is interested in the human side of you so just try to show up as authentically as possible. You grow when you move from “human doing” to “human being.”
You might be feeling rawer than usual this holiday season so try hard to remember, no one is trying to offend you. You have a tendency to take everything personally but when cousin Anne said she was disgusted by people who didn’t vote, she had no idea you had a fever of 103F that day. She wasn’t talking about you…
Remember that your family is coming together to try to have a nice time. Even if you feel alienated and misunderstood, they are doing the best they can. You grow when you give people the benefit of the doubt and remember what you have to be grateful for.
Your tendency is to try to smash disagreements with logic. In an engineering setting this might be useful, but at family dinners, this doesn’t leave you the winner. You alienate people when you ignore their emotional world.
Instead of presenting your airtight, data-driven case about why Uncle Joe is wrong when he says he thinks the government should fund more to the military, try to understand his opinion even if it is emotionally driven. You don’t have to agree with him but don’t just shut him down with your data. You grow when you realize there is value in the emotional world.
Your focus on the negative can exhaust your entire family. You may believe the world is about to end, and this is the last holiday season you’ll share together as a family but try not to energize the negative by constantly talking about it.
Stop refreshing your coronavirus death counter and take a day off from tracking vaccine alerts. Sit with your family, listen to their stories, catch up on their day-to-day lives and leave the state of the world at the door for an afternoon. The future isn’t certain for anyone so try to enjoy the present moment. You grow when you realize your own inner security and stability.
You can get a little focused on, well, you. We know you are planning a family gathering that will fit your schedule and your preferences but try to remember the other people involved. It’s possible that Aunt Sandra made a special dessert just for you and when you leave early to get to your next party, you might hurt her feelings without realizing it. Try to be sensitive to the needs of other people this holiday season. You grow when you practice discernment and become less self-referencing.
You can be really combative so before you go to the family dinner, take some time to center yourself. You like to control everything, including conversations, but it’s important to become still and let other people lead sometimes. Aunt Maria should be able to disagree with you about gun control without it devolving into a screaming match. For this day, remember the mantra “I’d rather be happy than right.” You grow when you moderate your anger, drop your dominating edge, and show us your softer side.
You feel like you vanish in the face of a conflict so it’s highly unlikely that you are the one to create the argument that ruins the family dinner. But you do have a tendency to exit the stage when the voices start to raise, and that’s a shame. You’re probably the only one who can broker common ground so resist your impulse to flee, use your mediation superpowers, and get the group to change the subject in that way only you are able to do. You grow when you go from sloth to right action, and these family dinners will give you plenty of growth opportunities. We need you this holiday season.
It’s a tumultuous time for everyone so try to give your family members a “pandemic pass” if their behavior is a little worse than usual. We’re all navigating a lot of change and an uncertain future. And if you find you’re really dreading the upcoming family holidays, make sure you read our guide for the best self-care for the holidays by Enneagram type. With all these tools, you will do just fine this holiday season!