The best part of the holidays is the magical way we just fall into the groove with our families and our oldest friends. Even if we haven’t seen some of them for much of the year, we can pick up just where we left off. Though we want to know what’s new and important in their lives, we don’t have to get to know each other all over again.
The worst part of the holidays is the predictable way we slide back into a rut with those we’ve known the longest. Though we’ve managed to avoid one another through intent or neglect, we find ourselves at the annual Christmas gathering and pick up old arguments just where we left off last year. Though we know we’ve changed over the years, they haven’t . . . or so it seems.
I have a great party game for the holidays. So at your next family gathering if things get slow . . . or if things get tense, play “Spot the Difference!”
You probably remember the version of the game kids play in elementary school. You may have seen them in children’s activity and work books or on the place mats for the kids’ meals at a family restaurant.
Confronted with two near identical pictures, a child is asked to spot the dozen or so differences. They learn observational skills and hone their abilities to compare and contrast.
As we grow up, our ability to perceive and learn new information can be limited by what we already know. Our brain conserves energy and effort by taking shortcuts. As if we are wearing filtered glasses, we see only what we have seen before. History appears to repeat itself because that is the only way we see it.
We expect Grampa to repeat the same old stories, complain about the food and fall asleep in the easy chair. We expect our brother-in-law to brag about his work or his latest sports achievement. We expect our cousin to talk about herself and nothing else. And we keep disliking Uncle George because he just hasn’t changed and we’ve always disliked him.
We know that we have grown and changed with age and experience, but we can fail to see the growth and change in the people we think we know the best.
Thinking about old friends and family members with whom you don’t have the most positive relationships, could you be selling each other short by failing to spot the differences?
How might they have changes in a positive way?
How might you understand and see them more fully?
Coming up: Rules of the Game.