Dear Five Faces: My widowed brother has begun dating and recently brought a woman I’ll call Hanna to a family birthday party. It was hard because we wanted to be excited for him, but Hanna was unpleasant and really rather pushy and opinionated. We’re a family of teachers, mostly elementary school, and enjoy peaceful, harmonious environments when not working, but this party ended up far from congenial. Hanna disagreed with my mother about when to start cooking a casserole (my mother is an excellent cook!) and questioned another sibling’s opinion about a movie. I think my brother could tell things weren’t going well, too, because he’s normally a really outgoing and funny guy, but he stopped telling jokes about halfway through the evening, then he and Hanna left early. I want my brother to be happy, but if Hanna is going to be part of the family, how are we ever going to get along? Signed, Overwhelmed in Ohio
Dear Overwhelmed: Welcome to the world of different elements! You don’t mention your element, your brother’s element, or Hanna’s, but it’s going to be pretty easy to guess what’s going on. First, I think you and many of your family members are Earths. You love peace and harmony, food is important, and your brother’s happiness matters. These are very Earthy attributes. On the other hand, as an outgoing and funny guy, your brother sounds like he might be a Fire. And Hanna? That’s easy; it takes one to know one. Hanna is a Wood. In many ways that makes her a perfect partner for your Fire brother because Wood feeds Fire. But a room full of Earths might well feel overwhelmed and controlled by Hanna since Wood sits on the Control Cycle for Earth. It’s not surprising that many of you were uncomfortable.
It’s possible your brother’s new relationship won’t last long because too much Fire for a constant length of time can literally burn out a Wood. If that happens, Hanna will most likely move on to calmer arenas. However, Woods also enjoy contributing to the party atmosphere of the life of a Fire, so Hanna may be around for the long haul. But don’t worry, there are ways to get along with her and, who knows, maybe even like her!
Remember that Woods care about making things happen. When Hanna is part of the next family gathering, ask her (in a sweet Earth way) if she would be willing to take responsibility for a few things: maybe starting a salad or setting the table. Make it something easy, so she can do a good job (accomplishment is big for Woods), but not so easy that it’s demeaning (Woods usually care how they come across to others). Most of us who are Woods know that we do best at a party or other social occasion if we have a role to play – so give Hanna a role. This will not only make her feel comfortable, but it will help her fit in. Once she’s relaxed, she is sure to be less overwhelming and you just might discover what your brother sees in her. Good luck!