These tips and the story that follows are based on my experiences and how I apply what I know about Keirsey Temperament Theory to social occasions. Although I am known for generally being cheerful and upbeat, I’m not perfect, and sometimes I’m the one who snaps at someone for a minor offence.
Temperament theory helps me to understand how and why people get upset with each other; how to set-the-scene to minimize stress; and, how to manage misunderstandings…even if managing means apologizing or staying quiet and out of the way.
One thing I know for sure.
People are different from one another and no
amount of getting after them is going to change
them. Nor is there any reason to change them,
because the differences are probably good. — Dr . David West Keirsey
So…enjoy the holidays and I hope you’ll find these tips for parties and family gatherings useful.
When I’m the host:
As a Rational Inventor, I’m not overly concerned with how my home looks or if I’m ready when people arrive. I believe they are coming to visit me and getting ready is part of the visit. Of course I clean my home and get the basics ready, but there’s always some food that still needs to be prepared, furniture to move or a table to set-up.
When someone offers to help, I tell them the end result I’m looking for — I need the salads made; I need the table set; etc. — I don’t tell them how to do the job. I set my own preferences aside because in the end vegetables taste the same no matter which way they are sliced, and if I don’t like where the cutlery is, I can move it myself. An important thing you can do as a host is welcome people to your home and help them feel comfortable.
When I’m the guest (even with family):
I ask the host if I can help and then follow their instructions. Even if the way they make gravy or fruit salad makes no sense to me, I put my preferences aside. Now is not the time to add stress to my host’s party! An important thing you can do as a guest is consciously avoid upsetting your host.
As a Rational Inventor, I’m wired to debate both sides of an issue, just for the fun of it. But, I’ve learned this isn’t fun for others and can be interpreted as arguing or worse, fighting.
Now, when someone tells me something that could really get me going, I say, “Really, I didn’t know that.” This allows the other person to tell me what they know, and stops any debate, argument or fight before it starts. Either that, or they think I’m an idiot…but hey, it’s the holidays! I can take it.
Now for a story…
The following story is purely fictional and any resemblance to the way I prepare for parties is more than coincidental.
It was Monica’s turn to hold the family dinner. She cleaned the house, set-up the chairs, put out the dishes and got the tables ready for the salads, side-dishes and desserts that her 23 relatives would bring.The easy part was done! Now, she prepared her strategy for managing all the different personalities who were going to invade her home.
First, she gave her Rational husband a list of all the tasks he needed to do. She’d learned that if she asked him to help her one-task-at-a-time, he’d disappear into his office or the garage when he was finished each task, instead of asking what else he could do to help. He was more interested in solving problems and fixing things than preparing for parties. When he had a list, he’d move from one task to the next until he was finished.
Second, she prepared the kitchen for the Guardians: the Supervisors and Inspectors who tell everyone the right way to do things; and the Protectors and Providers who often ask for instructions because they want to do the right thing. She’d ask them all to make the vegetable plates and let them sort things out themselves.
Third, she prepared the TV room for her Artisan brother. He loved to get all the kids riled up and wouldn’t lift a finger to help unless asked. He didn’t mind helping; he just didn’t think of it himself; and, he saw nothing wrong with a bunch of kids running wild through the house, screaming and giggling. She’d ask him to play Wii Sports Resort with the kids in the TV room.
Finally, she left some little tasks undone for the Idealists: the Teachers and Counselors who loved to chat about all the why’s, what ifs, and what’s possibles of life while they worked; and the Champions and Healers who were usually on the lookout for someone who’d been left out or who needed a hug. Bringing harmony to a group is their strength. Monica counted on their people-skills to keep the conversations going by initiating them and being great listeners.
With the scene set, Monica poured herself a glass of wine just as the first guests arrived. In the end, the party was a great success.
What temperament do you think Monica is?
It doesn’t really matter. The point is that by accepting everyone as they are, instead of trying to mold them to who you want them to be, you’ll get through the holiday dinners with less stress and more fun.
If you have as similar story to share with me, or if you would like advice on how to improve communications in your family, during your holidays, I’d love to hear from you. Just send me an email.