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20th Dec 2015

Worried About The Family Meltdown This Christmas? This Study Proves You Might Be Playing A Role…

What role do you play in a family feud?

Whether it’s dibs on the last Turkey leg, or a joint mutiny on the quest to dethrone the Monopoly champion, it’s inevitable that the Christmas countdown may include a family squabble or two.

Yes, you love them really, but it can be hard work spending the holiday season with your family.

But new research suggests you’re simply a pawn in the game and you don’t really have as much choice as you might believe. Simply because you take on a family role.

(Hear us out.)

Eli Finkel has written a piece for the Wall Street Journal, and it sounds like there may be some truth to the matter.

According to Eli Finkel, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, there are four types of family fighters:

  • ‘The Trigger’ – this personal usually starts the row, by acting out or taking offense to a real or imagined slight. Finkel also suggests this person views themselves as the ‘family outsider’ and may hold grudges…
  • ‘The Prosecutor’ – this (usually) sibling will be frustrated by the behaviour of ‘The Trigger’ and plans on telling them it’s time to grow up. We ALL have one of these siblings.
  • ‘The Defender’ or ‘The Peacemaker’ – Pretty much what it says on the tin, this family member is begging for the quiet life. They usually keep calm and try to diffuse the situation…
  • ‘The Enabler’ – wants the conflict to end, but usually acts in a way to prolong anger or frustration amongst the different parties. According to the study, this is usually the mother’s role, who really just wants everyone to get along…

There’s guest roles too, with the study noting the ‘deserter’ as someone who is not related to the family but feels a sense of responsibility. This may be another adult or family friend, who may look to remove children, or more upset people, from the argument.

If this all sounds familiar don’t worry – there is a solution.

According to the team, all you need to do is have some forward planning.

Finkel says:

“You can have a positive outcome from conflict, but then you have to be willing to see other people’s perspectives.”

Experts advise taking a step back during a tense moment and to “reframe the event” in your mind.

The team found that when the parties stepped back and considered other points of view on the argument, the anger and resentment was more residual for the affected parties.

So when your brother tries to steal the last of the stuffing, or your sister polishes off the wine at dinner, take a deep breath… (and maybe give them a shove under the table.)

Hey, a family fallout can be as much a tradition as the turkey… Here’s to a happy Christmas!