Holiday Personality #1 LITTLE MISS AUNT VIOLET
In the long term, relationships need to be worked on, but sometimes we just need to get through that one-day visit without losing our minds. 5 ways to deal with the “Aunt Violet” in your family.
Surviving Type #1 "Aunt Violet" Personality- Don’t Battle: Identify the need and redirect!
Aunt violet has something to say about, well, everything. She knows it all, she knows mysteriously how all things will work out and a better way to do it. PS your plans for sure won’t work out, of course. She knows surprisingly a lot though she doesn’t get up to help much considering her masterclass is running from the couch nonstop. Oh Aunt Violet, if only you weren’t so consistently negative every year!
Our instinct is to argue at the ridiculous suggestions she insists are completely necessary, regarding situations she knows nothing about. Or to verbally dismiss her for her lack of knowledge and the gumption to insist she’s the authoritative source on topics unrelated to herself. Maybe give her an extra turkey leg to chew on to keep her mouth busy? You don't need another glass of eggnog to get through this, let's see what else can be done.
Remember that one cannot play tug of war alone. Let her yank on that rope, resist the urge to pick up the other end and give it a hard toss into the snow. If the all-knowing Aunt Violet needs to feel like a contributor, then provide an avenue for contribution that keeps her occupied as well as feeds her need to feel like a valued resource. This redirect works with toddlers, and ironically, is just as effective on adults. Identify the need she’s trying to fill – here it is to feel important, valued, and a trusted resource.
She will hunt for that validation by giving out advice until she gets what she is seeking. If no advice is needed, she will pick something apart to create chaos and then graciously offer her advice on how it should be fixed. Aunt Violet is a saint that way, isn’t she?
1. Tell aunt violet that with so many people around and hosting duties to perform, you are not able to give your complete attention to her ideas. Hand her a notebook and pen and ask her if every time she has a wonderful suggestion to share, perhaps she could write it down so that no one forgets and everyone will get a copy after the holiday is over. And thank you for always bringing such great ideas to the family get togethers! In a few years, aunt violet may even have her own Dear Violet column and a book on her hands. What does she think about that??? (She owes that dedication to you, remind her!)
2. Bring out a puzzle and tell her that no one has ever been able to solve this puzzle, its actually been declared unsolvable by 99% of the population but it would so amazing if it could be figured out. Dump it on the table and get her working on it- because if anyone can solve it, someone with her kind of knowledge absolutely cannot fail! Of course, if the puzzle is flawed and needs to be complained about, she should add that to the notebook so a letter can be sent to the manufacturer. Those bastards! Aunt Vi to the rescue again! Then ask her to find something that you know has been lost for about a decade. If she finds it, its a win. If she doesn't and it takes all day.... also a win.
3. Choose a place specifically to ask her for advice. Then spend the rest of the day occasionally bringing up her amazing advice and telling others about it in front of her. Make sure they know to ooh and ahh over it. If she can get the validation she’s seeking filled throughout the day then she may very well sit back and relax or at least keep her focus on the one pre-chosen topic. “So she suggested I slap the roast with a hammer for exactly 3 minutes and you wouldn’t believe how tender that is going to be for dinner. I’m going to do this every year! Have you tried it, oh you should its incredible, Aunt Vi sure knows her meat tenderizing!”
4. Agree. “Oh, you always put at least 3 cups of salt in your gravy? I’ve never tried that, interesting! I’ll consider that, thank you for that tip!” “And you think I should leave my no-good husband who voted for the wrong guy? You know, I can see your point some days, I really can, I’ll keep my eye out for any red flag behavior for sure! Do you think I should ask him to leave right now? I think I should let him stay for dinner… you know, to be polite since he kind of lives here? Could you add the ways he should improve on in that notebook, I’ll be sure he reads it because he loves self-improvement advice from my family members!”
You don’t have to take advice or agree with it just because you graciously listen to it and let them feel heard and you never have to take it personally, it’s their own demons they are fighting, not yours. When you look at it for what it is, you may even find yourself snickering at ridiculousness of it all.
5. For the kids (and hey maybe the adults) – make a small table off to the side with a green tablecloth. Write “Grinch’s Lair” on it. Let them know that anyone who’s heart is 3 sizes too small today should sit at the Grinchy table until they are feeling ready to sit at the table of love over at the Whoville dinner celebration. Put some positive sayings and some distracting activities there where kids (or grandma) can go process through frustrations when they pop up.
Really it’s about perspective, the ability to disengage from the opinions of those who you wouldn’t seek advice from, and seeing them as a character in your favorite sitcom. Because when you can look at your gathering as an episode of Seinfeld, or Friends, or maybe even Married with Children…we just might be able to crack a smile in the midst of the irrational or ridiculous. And you can’t be smiling and laughing unless you let go of controlling the chaos. And you can’t let go of the chaos until you learn to see the humor in the characters and the roles they bring with them to that cherished holiday dinner.
Your mindset is the one thing you alone get to choose, make sure you are intentional about putting your energy into it! :P