DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a brother who is usually kind of nasty. When we talk on the phone, he is often bossy and judgmental. At Christmastime he softens up, though.
My brother called me the other day and asked about my kids, wanting to know what they would like for holiday gifts. I was blown away. I had forgotten that he gets nice this time of year. I answered him. After all, it’s for my kids. But I can’t act like he isn’t normally rude and obnoxious. It’s hard to let my guard down when the next conversation could turn into a nasty argument.
How can I get him to see that we get along when he acts like it’s Christmas? He doesn’t have kids, so I’m thinking that he doesn’t seem to have a reason to be nice otherwise. -- Holiday Magic, Oakland, California
DEAR HOLIDAY MAGIC: Does your brother have a pet? A best friend? A living thing that he pays attention to? I ask because if you focus on what matters to him at holiday time throughout the rest of the year, you might be able to ignite that “nice” behavior. Your active effort at being thoughtful toward him could help him turn the corner.
The other thing you can do is to speak honestly to your brother. Tell him how happy you feel at Christmastime when you two get along so well. Point out that he sometimes hurts your feelings at other times of year when he is gruff and abrupt. Tell him that you would like for both of you to remember the feeling of kindness that you share during this time of year so that you can invoke it later.