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Creating a Game Plan for Family Priorities

Okay, it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on resolving the power tactics of of your in-laws. How can you straighten out the power plays in your family? Start by figuring out what you want within your family structure. It's a waste of time to realign the power structure unless you get want you want. And you can't get what you want unless you figure out what it is that you really want in the first place.

This isn't as easy as it sounds (not that it sounded all that easy). To lighten your task, I've prepared a little chart. All you have to do is pick the five most important items listed. Then arrange them from most to least important. The ones on the "most important" side are the ones you've decided are worth the effort to attain.

cleaning money recreation
cooking status travel
personal time sex hobbies and sports
education respect fame
power appearance/grooming other ________
family time seeing in-laws

Top Five Picks

  1. ______________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________
  5. ______________________________________________
Most important Important Least Important
______________________________________________
______________________________________________
______________________________________________

Power Lines

Next, figure out who has the power in your extended family. When you are trying to change the status quo, you have to understand your personal family culture. This can prevent you from making crucial tactical errors. Here are some clues to help you on your sleuthing.

Family Matters

In some rare instances, no one is in power. There's no one family member strong or savvy enough to run the show. If you suspect this is the case among your in-laws, study the situation closely. Perhaps the power just shifts with the situation, one member handling money issues, another taking over health-care problems.

Family Matters

Take your time and calculate your moves carefully. Sometimes you can talk to your in-laws directly and resolve the situation, but other times your approach has to be more subtle.

  • Never assume that volume = force. The most quiet member of the family may be the most powerful. My father made a lot of noise, but my mother called the shots.

  • See how the power is distributed. For example, where do most family members go for the holidays? Why?

  • Look at the economic side. Often, the golden rule of in-laws applies. You know that one: He who has the gold rules.

  • Consider gender. Traditionally, women are the keepers of the family flame. They're the ones who set up the dinner dates, arrange the holidays, remember birthdays, shop for gifts, and take care of medical situations. While this is indeed changing in light of an increasing number of two-income families, the change hasn't been as swift as many think -- or would like. As a result, more women than you'd realize are the power behind the throne.

Game Plan

Once you figured what you want and who's in charge, you can set about changing the power structure. The process will take time, so be patient. After all, it took years to set up the status quo, so unless you pull a coup d'etat, you're not going to change the family overnight.

  • Step #1 Be assertive-compromising

  • Step #2 State your needs, but be willing to see everyone else's sides as well.

  • Step #3 Try to work out fair situation. Don't be a tyrant and ride roughshod over everyone else's feelings.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dealing with In-Laws © 1998 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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