It’s inevitable: Most people will agree that there is always one family member who can’t help but start an argument at nearly every family get-together. The question is, why? Research from Queendom.com indicates that although “Holiday Grinches” tend to have difficulty controlling their temper, the source of their Christmas antagonism might be the result of more deep-seated issues, including poor self-esteem and underdeveloped or underused emotional intelligence.
Collecting data from 824 who took their Emotional Intelligence Test, researchers at Queendom focused their analysis on two very distinct groups:
· Those who are not satisfied with their personal relationships (with family and friends) and who find themselves in frequent conflict situations
· Those who are satisfied with their personal relationships and who tend to get into arguments less often than others
Here’s what Queendom’s study reveals about the satisfied, low conflict group:
· 50% are good at managing stress (compared to 17% of the unsatisfied, high conflict group).
· 53% are able to step away from an anger-inducing situation and put it in perspective (compared to 4% of the unsatisfied, high conflict group).
· 58% almost always manage to catch themselves before saying something they might regret (compared to 26% of the unsatisfied, high conflict group).
· 68% make it a point to avoid conversation topics that could offend someone (compared to 48% of the unsatisfied, high conflict group).
· 69% are willing to walk away from an unnecessary fight, particularly when they recognize that someone is purposely trying to push their buttons (compared to 35% of the unsatisfied, high conflict group).
· 77% possess high self-esteem and a strong sense of self-worth (compared to 30% of the unsatisfied, high conflict group).
· 81% are good self-monitors, and are able to adjust their behavior to fit the situation they find themselves in (compared to 61% of the unsatisfied, high conflict group).
· 82% possess good social insight and are able to adjust their manner of speech to different people and situations (compared to 65% of the unsatisfied, high conflict group).
· 86% make it a point to be civil and polite with others, even people they don’t particularly like (compared to 65% of the unsatisfied, high conflict group).
Here’s what Queendom’s study reveals about the unsatisfied, high conflict group:
· 30% are highly self-critical (compared to 9% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
· 39% are unassertive and have difficulty saying “no” to people (compared to 19% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
· 52% tend to assume the worst of people (compared to 5% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
· 52% tend to be tactless, especially when discussing sensitive issues (compared to 15% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
· 52% tend to overanalyze conversations or situations in general, finding problems and affronts where there aren’t any (compared to 17% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
· 61% postpone or avoid discussing touchy topics until they can’t take it anymore, resulting in an emotional meltdown and outburst (compared to 23% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
· 65% feel that other people take advantage of them (compared to 14% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
· 70% ruminate excessively over perceived slights or other impolite things others have said to them (compared to 13% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
· 70% subconsciously give other people power over their emotions with statements like, “People make me feel bad about myself, no matter what I do,” or “That person makes me so angry” (compared to 12% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
· 74% have difficulty overcoming a bad mood (compared to 13% of the satisfied, low conflict group).
Some people enjoy picking fights just for the thrill of it, but the truth is that the majority of argumentative people finding themselves getting into frequent fights for a number of reasons – and they might not even know why. So you may think that your antagonistic family member is simply short-tempered, nosy, overly critical or just downright mean. However, aside from the issues we highlighted above, he or she could also struggle with impulse control and have trouble holding their tongue, or have difficulty expressing more vulnerable emotions, like fear and sadness, and so they lash out with anger instead.
And here are two things from our study that may surprise you: 52% of our argumentative group are actually uncomfortable in emotionally charged situations, like arguments. They also have a tendency to put other people’s needs ahead of their own, even when they don’t want to, which could result in a build-up of resentment and frustration. Just like a soda can that has been shaken one too many times, bottled up resentment will find a way out, often in the form of emotional outbursts.
So how does one deal with a family Grinch without killing Christmas spirit? Queendom researchers offer some tips:
· Use “I” phrases. Instead of saying “You make me so angry me when you criticize my food or my lifestyle,” for example, send the message from YOUR point of view; “I feel frustrated when we don’t see eye to eye. I believe in the philosophy ‘to each their own’. Let’s not cast judgments on each other, especially during the holidays. What do you think?” Essentially, say how you feel, why, and ask the other person a question that leaves the ball in his court. Avoid accusatory statement or a defensive tone of voice, however. That will only give an argumentative person more fuel to fight back.
· Think before you speak. Don’t brush off this old chestnut – it can save you from a lot of senseless fights. Before saying something that could potentially result in an argument, ask yourself these questions: Is what I am about to say worth communicating? Will it be productive? Do I know how to say it in a tactful way? What is the best way to put it? Knee-jerk reactions can get you into a lot of trouble. Besides, wouldn’t you rather enjoy the taste of turkey and pie than the flavor of your foot in your mouth?
· Don’t fall victim to “The Fundamental Attribution Error”. We are always trying to figure out the causes of other people’s actions: Why is she so rude? Why does he always pick on people? All too often, we attribute disagreeable behavior on the part of others to dispositional rather than situational factors. For instance, we might tend to write someone off as a jerk for snapping at us, rather than looking for external causes, such as being sick or having been fired that day. As a result, we are less forgiving than many situations call for. Try to understand that others are under just as much pressure and stress as you are and as a result, their behavior may not always represent who they are.
· Make the most of your differences. You may find it difficult to get along with a person who is very different from you. Instead of giving up, try to look for good traits or abilities the individual has that you do not. What makes this person special? What strengths does this person have that you can always rely on? As glaring as this person’s faults may be, there is almost always a silver lining somewhere.
· Look for common ground. Try to find something – anything – that you have in common with a difficult individual. This may be tough, but once you find something you share and express it to the other person (you both like fishing, you both dislike the same politician), you have sent the message that you are capable of thinking in a familiar manner and creating a rapport. That’s a much better place to work from.
· Use humor. Humor has the power to dissipate tension better than anything else. It’s a powerful communication tactic. You can use humor to completely disarm the party pooper and shift the mood in the room. It can allow you to express what you think and feel, empathize, make the most of your differences and find common ground at once. Here is an example that could be used at the holiday table after a political discussion starts heating up: “Well, Uncle Jimmy thinks that I’m a poor liberal sap with a bleeding heart, and I sometimes get so worked up that I feel that he’s a heartless hardcore conservative. But deep down, I know he’s got a heart of gold, like all Moores do, and I love him dearly. Together, we make for a pretty well-balanced team. I wouldn’t have you any other way, Uncle Jimmy!”
· When all else fails, level with the individual. If all other attempts to get along have failed, admit to that person that you two just don’t get along, and leave it at that. Say that you respect them but for whatever reason there is a personality conflict. Once you have eliminated the pressure to try to get along as best buds or loving family members, you can establish a truce.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D. is President of PsychTests AIM Inc. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests.com, is a site that creates an interactive venue for self-exploration with a healthy dose of fun.