Yesterday morning as I sipped coffee and scanned my inbox before digging into the myriad of things on my to do list, I saw an article written by Sandy Anastasi that captured my attention. It started like this…
GOD HELP US All!
Well, it’s happening again. In exactly 72 hours, the madness will begin! Our homes will be in shambles, we’ll be nearly catatonic from gluttony and our children will be so hopped up on sugar their teeth will be chattering. The one weird uncle will drink too much and stay just a little past his welcome, and the scale in the bathroom will read, “You’ve got a great personality” when it’s all over.
Of course, Sandy is referring to our upcoming tradition in the states, Thanksgiving. The holidays are a time we come together with those in our life we love and those who challenge us deeply. Sometimes one relationship provides the paradox of both. Family dynamics are as fascinating to me as organizational dynamics and often have much in common. Our challenges with our parents, siblings, in-laws and others give us the opportunity to learn much about ourselves. This additional insight can be a huge gift if we choose to see it that way. Let me share an example with you from my own interesting family dynamics.
My husband comes from a big family, six children in total. He is the baby of the family and apple of his mother’s eye. Marrying the baby of the family with an adoring mother was not easy for me. During one of my first family Thanksgiving’s as the new daughter-in-law, I was stupefied when my mother-in-law arranged two big tables with assigned seating, sitting husbands separate from their wives. My husband was seated next to my mother-in-law and I was seated at the other table.
My stupefaction quickly grew into deep frustration. Now, as a mother of my own boy whom I adore, I can empathize with my mother-in-law’s choice, but at the time I was a volcano exploding in anger. However, while I was busy boiling over, the other two daughters-in-law were busy drinking wine and laughing. They seemed not to be bothered in the least by my mother-in-law’s decision. As a matter of fact, they seemed to be having a wonderful time. It occurred to me then that my response was more about me than my mother-in-law. When presented with the same stimulus, being separated from our husbands for dinner, I was choosing to feel something different than the joy my sisters-in-law were feeling. When this occurred to me I realized joy was also available to me and I alone separated myself from it. Often people are hard for us because they mirror something in us we don’t like about ourselves. This may not be an easy insight to swallow, but it is in fact valid even if we are not conscious of it.
After some reflection, I came to understand that my response to my mother-in-law’s decision was about my disdain for behaviors that make me feel “controlled”. And yet, anyone who knows me knows I really like to control things. I like to be the one making the decisions. My mother-in-law mirrored back to me my own behaviors and in doing so gave me the gift of personal insight. If I don’t like being controlled, then I’m sure others don’t like it when I try to do it them. Now, given this new information, it’s kind of hard to hold my mother-in-law responsible when I’m the one choosing to feel a certain way given a certain set of circumstances, especially when I’m down right hypocritical in my approach. It’s in this new awareness that change and leadership growth is possible during the holidays!
So, no matter what this holiday season throws at you, consider the opportunity your challenge brings you. Every interaction with your family will be an opportunity to develop your personal leadership skills.
Angela Sebaly, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer