Psychologist Andrew Fuller has come up with the perfect way to banish those toxic types from ruining your silly season.
While the image of tinsel and presents is all well and good, Christmas also comes with a range of psychological stresses as you deal with all kinds of personalities.
Andrew Fuller, psychologist and author of Your Best Life At Any Age, believes everyone can stay sane during the silly season. The key is spotting a difficult colleague, acquaintance or family member’s personality type, whether they’re a blamer or a backstabber, and dealing with them appropriately – while having a little fun along the way at their expense.
How to identify the blamers and whingers
You won’t need to ask these people how the past year has been for them – they’ll tell you. Expect them to launch into a long description of the trials, tribulations and injustices they have suffered.
Trying to alleviate their concerns is a saintly undertaking but is totally pointless because murmuring sympathetically only encourages them.
Instead, nip their moaning off at the bud with a swift, ‘I’m so sorry to hear that,’ and move on so they can inflict their tales of woe upon someone else.
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How to identify the controllers
These charmers insist on all the traditions being upheld. It doesn’t matter if it is 44C, they’ll still want the turkey, the stuffing, the roast spuds and all the trimmings. They, and they alone, will determine when the presents are unwrapped, the bon-bons pulled and whether the jokes they contain will be told.
You could be ‘nice’ and do what you’re told, but that degree of servitude may rankle. An alternative is to slightly assist the ‘natural’ course of human events and subtly ensure that even the best plans go astray from time to time. Fun awaits.
How to identify the back stabbers
For these show ponies, Christmas is the time to get even. This group contains plotters, fakers, rumour-mongers, gossips, crawlers and big talkers – and that’s just the most likeable of them. They brag, boast and delight in spreading negative news about others.Their supreme pleasure comes from making themselves look good while making others look bad at the same time. The usual suspects may include siblings intent on taking you down a peg or two or frenemies with a competitive streak.
Team up with someone else to shower the back stabber with oodles of excessive praise to the extent that even they may begin to suspect you are having a lend of them. Of course, the competition between you and your co-conspirator is to see who can dole out a piece of praise so excessive and over the top that it causes the backstabber to actually pause and consider its validity. Again, fun awaits!
How to identify the high-and-mighties
This group contains uppity snobs, the smug and the oh-so-superior who will cast a haughty eye over the assembled cast of family members and wonder how a family tree with so many barbarians ever produced a gem such as themselves. They take pleasure in pressing on people’s inferiority buttons.
Now here’s where some real fun potentially awaits. Identify the most low-brow movie, television, book or song you know of and applaud it. Watch for signs of them being simultaneously appalled by, and pitying of, your barbaric tastes. Enjoy.
How to identify the competitors and the self-obsessed
This group includes egomaniacs, boasters, tricksters, shysters, conmen and paranoids. If they would only use their competitive drive to improve the jobs they are employed to do you could be happy, but most turn their insatiable appetite for victory onto their work colleagues. These people compete over the latest recipes, who has the latest phone or seen the latest Netflix drama. Cracking their disguise? They never ask one single question about you.
The strategy here is to bring out your inner interrogator. Again, having another conspirator will make this more fun. Ask endless, inane questions about their exultant brilliance. Keep an eye on the time. How long can you stretch it out before they turn and say, “Enough about me, how are you?”
How to identify the avoiders
This group includes the lazy, the indirect, the infuriating, the escapologists and the sneaky culprits who promise the world and deliver nothing. Some are bald-faced liars who happily tell you a task is nearing completion but when it comes to the crunch they begin to duck, weave and dole out excuses, rationalizations and outright lies such as “I didn’t understand the task” or “It wasn’t properly explained to me”.
The main trick with avoider is to avoid them. Though if having fun at a dull seasonal gathering is your aim, you can also start making requests for commitments such as dates for catch up, to help you move house, look after your pet while you are away, until they blanche and run for the hills.
How to identify the poor communicators
This group contains bores, drones, thoughtless foot-in-mouth artists, hot heads and verbal diarrhea dispensers make a business meeting feel like a death sentence. Some are explosive tinder boxes with very short fuses, others are as chatty as a mute. Even more onerous are the communicators who use one hundred words when two would do. These bores use any question as an opportunity to drill knowledge into you.
Keeping interactions short and functional makes sense. Alternatively, you can begin a long and rambling soliloquy interspersing vague terms and concepts, possibly even philosophical implications and ramifications, in a manner which – if not suggestive of a final conclusion – goes some way towards highlighting a raft of possibilities for further consideration and discussion. Never underestimate the power of circumlocutory verbosity.