Wintertime holidays are in full swing and so are family gatherings. It’s an opportunity to connect and reestablish family bonds, or, for many, it can be a time of stress and misunderstanding one another.
Just because you’re all related doesn’t mean you all show your affection or acknowledge your family connection to each other in the same way.
Love may make the world go ‘round, but, if your family member or significant other doesn’t communicate with you the way you want, you can feel disconnected, neglected or downright unloved. But, before you go breaking branches off the family tree, consider these hidden expressions of love and affection your family may be sending your way.
Words are not the only languages of love. Bear hugs, back rubs, feasts, gifts and unsung good deeds also speak to our connection with one another. When it comes to family, sometimes you have to read between the lines to discover the affection for you that lives in their hearts.
Here are seven different personality styles for connecting that express affection non-verbally.
See if you recognize yourself or other family members in these styles so you can reframe any negative assumptions you may have made about their affection for you or your connection to them.
The 7 Secret Ways Families Communicate
If you’re the type who wants long, meaningful conversations with your relatives, over the phone or in person, and all you ever get from your Aunt Alice are frustratingly short e-mails with photos of her dog attached, take it as a compliment.
What at first seems like disinterest may in fact be a hidden request for more communication from you.
Not everyone feels like sharing their personal lives with relatives, especially if there is a generation gap. But the fact that they are writing to you in the first place says they are thinking of you and want to hear from you.
Go ahead and tell her all about your animal rescue work, or your latest read about innovations in veterinary care. Use the shallow hook to sink into a deeper connection you’ll feel glad about down the road.
- The Money Giver
Money can seem impersonal, but for the person who was raised to equate money with security, giving it to others is actually a great sign of love and affection.
Return cash gifts with appreciative energy. For many people, money is one of the most emotionally charged aspects of life. Some people think that people who give money do so because they want to control your life, but in reality, they really only want you to be safe, secure and happy and think money can buy that peace of mind.
You can thank The Money Giver by keeping them up to date on your life and showing evidence that they have invested well in you. Photos of your home improvements or giving them a countdown of credits to go before you’ve earned that college degree, for example.
Your sister may give bad advice or may never give you the chance to talk. Yet she always has a fresh batch of something wild, wicked or yummy to share with you at every family visit.
It could be that she channels all her feelings and affection for you into cooking.
She wants to have every chair at the dining table filled and craves communing over meals. Her language is food and her style is nourishing.
Acknowledge her by ‘coming to the table’ at every opportunity and letting her know you enjoy eating what she prepares for you. The Feeder is hungry for affection, so be sure you let them know you feel filled when they are around.
Grandpa isn’t the least bit interested in hearing about your latest relationship drama, but, although it seems you are talking to a wall when you try to communicate with him, he’s actually scanning your home looking for things to fix.
The Fixer can come off as condescending when they ask invasive or personal questions such as, “When is the last time you changed the oil in your car?” when, in fact, that’s how he shows he cares.
He may not have a warm and caring manner but he wants to be sure your environment—your home or vehicle—is taking care of you by being safe, secure and functioning.
Usually known as the ‘gossip,’ every family has an unofficial information source through which all communication flows. We call it the grapevine, but every family member is unwittingly supplying the juice whenever they complain about others or confide to this person.
Families who have difficulty communicating directly with one another often use The Switchboard who they know, deep down, can’t keep her mouth shut.
If you want news that, for whatever reason, you cannot deliver directly to get to a relative, all you have to do is tell it to The Switchboard and she will patch your deep dark secret right through.
The Recreation Director
Maybe Uncle Ken never has anything interesting to say, or mumbles a lot, or is rarely available. But then it comes time for family gatherings and he’s the one who is pulling the station wagon up the driveway and inviting everyone to pile in for a trip to the mall or the mountain.
Recreation Directors express their affection by bringing everyone together to enjoy a group experience. They are the ones who always have a model airplane, train set, jigsaw puzzle or paint-by-numbers kit out in their home and want you to join in completing it with them.
Taking part in activities with the Recreation Director makes them happy and acknowledges that you recognize their affection for you.
Many people have a wallflower in the family. She is the quiet sister-in-law or aloof nephew who never married and seems to have an esoteric lifestyle, volunteering for charities or going on pilgrimages to Nepal. He or she are the ones who hang back at family gatherings.
Wallflowers don’t really approach others or crave the spotlight, yet are always available whenever others approach them in the corner of the room from where they’re always listening or watching from the wings of the family stage.
You might think they’re disinterested or even judgmental, and yet, whenever there’s a family gathering, they’re the first to RSVP. They share their energy through their presence, even if their communication is lacking.
The Wallflower’s hidden message is a desire to be included. You can draw him out simply by inviting him in with genuine interest in how he spends his time outside of the family circle.
Recognize any of these types in your family? Know of anyone we missed? Let us know in the comments below!