Holidays Perfect Chance To Assess ‘Family Tapes’

By Chris Crouch

When I was young, neighborhood friends and I would get together to play football, baseball or other games. Often we would play all day, and sometimes we would still be playing when dinnertime rolled around.

Occasionally one of my friends would say, “Why don’t you eat dinner with me?” When this occurred, my nervous system kicked into full alert! I would morph into a zombie-like entity and reply in a monotone voice, “No-thank-you-I-cannot–do-that,” and go home. Hold that thought and fast-forward 40 years.

Several years ago, I was attending a training session with about 90 participants. The session ended at noon and I knew about a dozen of the participants were invited to attend a special luncheon with the speaker afterward. I was not one of the invitees. However, during the morning break I had an interesting conversation with the speaker. As a result of this conversation, he invited me to join them for the luncheon. The zombie-like entity suddenly reappeared and I robotically replied, “No-thank-you-I-cannot–do-that!”

At the time, I was studying psychological behavior tapes. These are thought patterns that somehow get programmed into our psyche and strongly influence or control our behavior. I remembered from my studies that if you say ‘yes’ but really want to say ‘no,’ or say ‘no’ but really want to say ‘yes’ to a request, it probably means a psychological tape is influencing your behavior.

In this case, I really wanted to say ‘yes’ and go to lunch, but I had been programmed by my parents 40 years earlier to decline all unplanned invitations to dine. The main deterrent to accepting such an invitation was intense guilt. In the case of the playmate’s invitation, I was told that accepting such an invitation was totally inappropriate and I would, in effect, be taking food out of the mouth of my friend’s family members if I joined them for dinner when they were not really expecting me. I now understand that some families have the opposite tape and believe that when it comes to meals, the more the merrier. Not so in my family.

I bring this up now because however you choose to celebrate the holidays, there is a good chance you will spend some time interacting with relatives. Exploring family tapes is something to do at holiday gatherings. Understanding your traditional family tapes can help you understand and, if needed, alter some of your tapes. Simply recognizing that I had a “decline-all-last-minute-meal-invitation tape” and acknowledging that this was behavior I did not want to continue the rest of my life allowed me to rewrite this particular behavior tape. I’ll now happily accept a last-minute invitation.

Here’s the deal on tapes. Some serve you well for your entire life. Some serve you well as children but not as adults. Those who better understand their behavioral tapes stand a better chance of altering unproductive behavior. Listen to the Hank Willams Jr. song “Family Tradition” and have fun with your family over the holidays.

Chris Crouch is CEO of DME Training and Consulting and author of several books on improving productivity. Contact him through