There is nothing like a game of Monopoly to help you see loved ones in a new light—though sometimes it takes the clarity of hindsight. For instance, I only recently realized that one of my four kids who (probably correctly) claims to have won every game we ever played was also the banker each time. Hmm.
Equally insightful when it comes to learning more about friends is the annual group Christmas Gift Exchange, which could easily be used as some kind of personality profiling tool. Professional counselors might consider earning a bit of extra money this time of year by hiring themselves out as observers. Maybe even offer a free session to the person seeming to need it most.
The first revealing aspect of it all is the gift selection process itself. What kind of effort have they put into it? Have they grabbed the cheapest thing they could find? Is it something they dusted off from the back of their pantry? Are they re-gifting from last year? Have they chosen something that’s deliberately, delightfully tacky and useless? Or have they found something that makes everyone go “Ooh”?
Then there’s the matter of the rules. Agreeing how this game is going to be played can be an extreme exercise in consensus building, because—as with Monopoly—most people have their own “house” rules. Can you pick up and inspect a package before selecting? Or, if you touch one, are you committed? How many times can a gift be “stolen” before it can no longer be chosen by someone else? Can you go all free market and trade after the game is over? Is there a sworn-to-secrecy vow of silence on who gave what?
The actual playing of the game offers its own insights, of course. If the person before them obviously really likes what they got, will the next player dare to claim it? And if they do, in what kind of manner—pseudo-apologetically or gleefully? If this happens and you’re next in line, are you ever tempted to take that item for yourself, just because you know the person who took it before you must have really wanted it? Or, when it’s your turn, do you prefer to choose from something you can see, or is the element of surprise (and possible disappointment) more appealing?
As with any game, there’s also the whole body language thing. How tight is the smile of the person who loses the gift they really liked? Meanwhile, are you keeping an eye on everyone to see their reaction when a gift is opened, in case it’s what they brought? If it’s something everyone thinks is a bust, are they trying to remain impassive so no one knows that was theirs? If it’s the hit of the day, are they hoping you might figure out it was them?
And you thought it was all just a bit of fun. Really, it’s an opportunity to extend peace on earth and goodwill to all, even when they go home with that pack of Starbucks coffee beans you really, really wanted.