What to do When Personality
Differences Threaten Family Ties

Family Trail Walk

Families are a mixed bag of personalities and learning to live with personality differences is a challenge each family member faces. Patterns of interaction develop over time, and it might be said that family units develop personalities, too.

But sometimes personality differences drive a wedge in a family unit. Taking on the leadership role to improve family relationships is an honorable intention. Acknowledging straightaway that every family member is unique in temperament, special, and living within their own set of challenges can go a long way in putting your positive foot down in situations of family discord.

Positives of Awareness of Personality Differences

Taking a tally of the positive things about having different personalities within the family can offer a rock to stand on in when the family is in a sea of disharmony. It is important to give specific recognition to these strengths when they are viewed negatively by some relatives.

  • “Marion, we all value the fact that you don’t mince words when asked to tell the truth as you see it. Maybe here and now, Tom thinks you are being a little blunt. Am I right Tom?”
  • “Dad, you always hold firm with the “No” position whenever a family squabble comes up and overall, this steadies our family boat. You may sense some push back right now, but we are all aiming for a reasonable solution. Can you trust us on this?”
  • “Martin, of course you have every right to feel upset with what you call, ‘The same old, ‘No!’ Yet, you are known in our family as being sympathetic and understanding when anyone has a personal problem. I think Mom might be thinking that you aren’t understanding why she is saying “No,” right now.”

When identified, the strengths reveal negative sides, but can be offset when others’ strengths are kept in mind.

Call for a Family Meeting Time

As a practitioner of etiquette-fulness, you no doubt are a pleasant person to be around and others are drawn to your magnetic force of kindness. Using this in your leadership role for the well-being of the family can quell the tide of discord. For the sake of long-run peace, this must happen when tempers have died down.

  • Insist on a family meeting with all members present and in firm listening agreement with each person for the sake of fairness. Each person must agree:
     - Not to interrupt another person.
     - Not to prohibit expression of opinion or belief. 
  • Make a collective list of every member’s strengths by asking each person to acknowledge what they see as personal strengths.
  • Then, with the collective list of all the family members’ collective strengths, brainstorm how each strength has a negative side.
     - “Four people in our family have the strength of wanting to know “Why?” What is the negative side of having to know why?”
     - “Three members have the strength of persistence. What are the negative aspects of being a persistent person? 
  • A last phase of this family meeting is to draw up a list of the ways the whole family can increase the ways in which they can exhibit what being civil and kind to one another might look like. Possible answers are…
     - Fewer family squabbles.
     - Better cooperation.
     - More sharing of responsibilities.
     - Less complaining and bossing.
     - More inclusion by appreciating differences.
     - Demonstrating respect for each other.

Having agreement that family life can be improved henceforth with understanding, good manners and etiquette-fulness can be ever-remembered with the referenceable notes from the family meetings.

Regardless of personality differences, accepting that mistakes will happen and that we all, deep down, want everyone to succeed in being the best persons they can be, will go a long way in improving family ties.

“Good manners are the traffic lights of human interaction. They make it so that we don’t crash into one another in everyday behavior.”
~ P.M. Forni

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