Essential skills for the modern world

Don't fight them

If your family drive you mad, accept it. That's what they do. That's what everyone's family does; it's what they're there for. Don't think that there exists, somewhere, out there, a family of people who don't get on each other's nerves. Once you come to terms with that, dealing with the hideousness of your own family is easier.

Seeing things

Realise that no one else sees what you see. Your mother's habit of talking to strangers in supermarket queues, or your father's insistence on speaking bad French to French waiters might mortify you, but others, usually, won't think anything of it.

Break the mould

You've probably grown up having the same arguments with your mother or father or sister, over and over again – you possibly even repeat the same phrases every time you fight. The next time you find yourself in a row, ask yourself: do these fights follow a pattern? What is it? What role do I play in the argument? How can I break the pattern and say or do something different to reach a better conclusion?

Let it go

Don't bother to try to change them. Your brother, sister or parent might choose to live their life in a way that to you is embarrassing, unfathomable or annoying, but unless they're doing something to put you or themselves in actual personal danger, it's best to let it go.

Partners in crime

It is OK not to like your relatives' partners. But it's not OK to get involved, unless they ask you to. The best you can do is repeat their grievances back to them, so they can hear what they really think about their other halves. If they say, "She's driving me mad, she's so annoying", don't say, "Yeah, I've always hated her". Instead, say, "I can see how you might think that she is annoying".

Short and sweet

Don't expect too much from your family – or from yourself. If spending time with your family is always difficult, don't make it any harder, especially at Christmas, by planning to spend a lot of time with them. Often, people do this thinking, "It'll be OK this year", or "I'll try harder this year", only to be disappointed yet again. If it takes two hours in the company of your family for you to want to shoot them all, see them for just two hours at a time. Only you will know that you're doing this; they will just think how nice you've become.

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