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  • Dr. Shane Owens

With wide-open arms, welcome the unwanted guest

I will be using “Uncle Frank” throughout this post, mostly because I do not have an Uncle Frank. It could just as easily be Aunt Sally, because I don’t have one of those and because women can be just as annoying.

I apologize in advance to all the perfectly kind and nice and warm Uncle Franks and Aunt Sallys with whom this tactic is unwarranted.

We all have an “Uncle Frank”—annoying and ubiquitous—at family gatherings. You always seem to be seated next to him at weddings and other events. Even if you aren't, he seems to lock on to you like a fun-busting guided missile.

You are thinking about your “Uncle Frank” right now, aren’t you?

And now you're looking for excuses not to attend that Thanksgiving dinner or holiday party.

But, there are other people there that you really want to see, and who really want to see you (or maybe just your kids). Ditching the fun wouldn’t do anyone any good.

Here’s a better idea:

Instead of avoiding the gathering—and instead of trying to hide, which never works—find “Uncle Frank” first thing and engage him in conversation.

Here's why:

First, and most simply, it will flummox him. People usually are not able to adjust to alterations in well-rehearsed scripts. At the very least, it might take him a while to catch up or to catch on. If it works well, you can set a new tone for all future interactions with him.

Second, behavior does not happen without a reason, and it is possible that “Uncle Frank’s” annoying lock-on is his unique way of expressing his love and affection for you. Meeting that need head-on and on your terms might feed both his need to connect and your need for control. And you just might discover that Uncle Frank isn’t all that bad, after all.

One more thing: Beware, because you just may be someone else’s “Uncle Frank” or “Aunt Sally.”

Most importantly, please stay safe, healthy, connected and happy this holiday season.

Perhaps you have a college student coming home as well? If so, here are some tips on handling that.

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