Ottawa family counselling

Managing Controversy Between Family and Friends Over The Holidays


family therapy ottawaYou put any number of people in a small space for long enough and you can be sure that sooner or later, controversy is going to break out. Throw alcohol into the mix, and you can expect a dramatic environment. When these people are all family, there is perhaps no more potent recipe for volatility. Whether you are a brother, a mother, a co-worker, or a friend, everyone has a role in managing the volatile environments the holidays bring us. Know your role in your environment, execute it well, and you can help yourself and everyone around experience only best of the holiday season.

Know Your Role

Whether a son, a mother, a co-worker, or a friend; in any given relationship we have a role. When we step outside of our role, we bring tension and stress into our environment and lead others to do the same.

When grandpa makes some inappropriate comment about the way a grandchild is dressed or acting, he’s stepping out of the role of Grandfather and into that of Parent. This leads parents to step out of their role in order to scold him, setting the entire family on a slippery slope towards a seriously dramatic situation.

But what if instead of stepping beyond them, everyone had made a conscious effort to stay in their respective family role?

If grandpa made a conscious effort to remain in his role, then he wouldn’t have commented inappropriately in the first place, stopping this unfortunate chain of causality in it’s tracks. Even if he had made his comment, by making a conscious effort to stay in their role, parents could prevent further disaster by first responding to any hurt feelings their child, and dealing with grandpa independently in the interests of keeping things civil

Family, Friends, Co-Workers

family therapy ottawaNo matter what situation you’re in over the holidays, if you’re with others, assess the role you have in your given environment, and do your best to act within it, regardless of what others are doing.

If you’re at a work Christmas party, no matter how casual the atmosphere, keep in mind that you are still a co-worker to those all around you, and ought to restrain your decisions to things that are professionally appropriate. When those around you are over-indulging it might be tempting to do the same, but when too many of those around you are stepping beyond their role as co-workers, things get very ugly very fast, and can have lasting professional consequences.

If you’re a teenager, accepting your role as the child of your parents is a hard thing to do, but it has rewards many don’t recognize. More often than not, respecting a parents authority feels like unfair submission. A lot of the time, this is because it actually is. Despite this, resisting and protesting against the will of your parents constitutes you stepping outside your role as a child to your parents, and though it probably feels wrong to you, choosing to do otherwise is generally the wiser path. The price paid to resist emptying the dishwasher comes at the cost of the time and energy it takes to argue, the tension and fighting you promote among your family, and often doesn’t even get you out of emptying the dishwasher! Choose instead to simply do what you’re told, even if it’s unfair, and you pay a much smaller price. Moreover, because you aren’t wasting your energy resisting, and aren’t contributing to family tension, the benefits are much greater.

Be Part of The Solution

When anyone steps out of line in terms of their interpersonal behavior in the many crowded social situations the holidays are known for, they become part of a chain reaction that leads to nothing good for themselves or anyone around them. By choosing to over-drink at work functions, our co-workers influence us to follow suit, leading more co-workers to join in, setting the stage for controversy that will last long into the new year. By resisting our parents, we get into fights, increasing stress and tension in everyone, which leads to more fighting, impacting the enjoyment of Christmas for ourselves and all around us. When we don’t make a conscious effort to think about restraining our decisions to those that are appropriate for our given role, we’re prone to stepping outside of them and becoming a part of this domino effect.

family therapy ottawaBut when we do make this effort, we’re like a domino glued to the floor, and can stop the wave of negative energy to our benefit and others. Maybe a few co-workers are influencing others to over-drink because it justifies their drinking. By choosing instead to keep your actions restrained to those appropriate of a co-worker, you help undermine their influence on others. If those around you see you acting appropriately among others acting inappropriately, they will model their actions after yours, and you’ll have a substantial impact on reducing drama and controversy for everyone.

Choosing to act according to your given role not only stops negative experiences from spreading, but has the effect of promoting positive experiences for everyone around you. Just like a single bad action can be the first in a long chain of domino’s headed towards chaos for you and those around you, a single right one can be all it takes to bring everyone back onto the right course. If you make a deliberate effort to consistently make the right actions during the holiday season, you can have a massive impact on everyone’s enjoyment of the best that the season has to offer, good times with family and friends.

A Line In The Sand

family therapy ottawaSometimes we’re given no choice but to step out of our role in order to correct the behavior of another.

If respecting the authority of your parents allows them to abuse you, you have to go about doing things that, as a child of your parents, you shouldn’t have to.

If grandpa doesn’t stop with inappropriate comments, though nobody should have to, someone has to draw the line in the interests of the family.

If a particular co-worker seems resolutely committed to over-drinking at the expense of everyone around them, while unfortunate, nobody can fault a co-worker for trying to find a way to manage this person.

Volatility is not in-and-of itself an indication of an unhealthy family or work culture. It would be contrary to human nature to expect any group of people, when packed together in the same space with lots of alcohol, to not have ups and downs. But when the actions of a particular member of the family or group are consistently contributing negativity to whichever holiday get-together they’re in, no amount of proper action on your behalf will stem their negativity. More is needed.

In cases like these, there is an extremely high probability of underlying issues that cannot be addressed in the context of a holiday get-together. If you try, you are stepping out of the role of child, parent, or co-worker and into that of a therapist. When you try to perform a role that you are not well suited for, not only do you fail at the job you’re trying to perform, but also the one your supposed to be performing. If people have problems that are leading them to consistently act inappropriately over the holidays, trying to ‘fix’ them will only result in failure and tension. This is why, when you identify any of those around you this holiday season that seemed hell-bent on acting inappropriately, we recommend you get in touch with Capital Choice Counselling.

If a parent is acting borderline abusive to their child, while you shouldn’t have to be the one to seek out help, doing so is necessary. Capital Choice can help.

family therapy ottawaIf grandpa isn’t contributing anything positive to family get-together, as a parent it neither your role nor within your ability to change his beliefs or dictate his actions, but it is within your power to allow him to sit at your table. You shouldn’t have to tell him he can’t come to Christmas, but if his presence contributes only negativity, doing so may be what he needs to adjust them himself.

If a co-worker has a drinking problem, and is trying to get others to over-drink to justify her own over-drinking, it’s not your role to make her stop. By acting professionally you can serve to lead others by example, and limit the negativity she brings to the environment. You can try and point her in the direction of help, but be wary of trying to step in and provide it yourself. That’s what Capital Choice is for.