At some point in your life, you’ll come across a “difficult person,” and one of these people will probably be a family member. Relatives are often the hardest to deal with since they’re connected to use in a more intimate and complicated way.
Here are strategies to help you deal with difficult family members.
Encourage Them to Express Themselves
Let your relatives state their point of view. After all, listening is sometimes enough to allow someone to feel like they can comfortably say what’s on their minds. Recommend your family member to attend dialectical behavior therapy sessions. These sessions can help both children and adults learn how to regulate their behaviors and emotions more effectively — reducing the possibilities of conflicts.
Remember, showing respect for another person’s differences can go a long way, and you can start by listening to them.
Don’t Try to “Fix” Them
Sometimes, the best way to deal with a difficult relative is by accepting them as they exactly are. Although it’s tempting to help someone you genuinely care about, especially if they’re family, it isn’t always practical. Sometimes, it may work, but often, your efforts won’t be rewarded. In fact, trying to “fix” a person can make it worse since the more you do for them, the more they’ll likely expect and want from you.
In this situation, the best way to deal with them is by accepting that they’re unable to change, at least at this point. So, unless you see genuine change or interest to change themselves for the better — assume they’re just like that. Remember to temper your expectations about what a family member can and wants to do.
Listen Like It’s the First Time
When dealing with difficult family members, it’s quick to assume that you know what they’re going to say — preventing you from genuinely listening to what they have to say. Doing this can lead them to think you’re not interested in their opinions, which often leads to more conflict. That’s why always properly and fully listen to a relative, even if you know what they’re going to say next.
Watch Out for “Trigger Topics”
Although it isn’t always obvious, there will always be topics representing points of disagreement in the family. To avoid conflicts, make sure to know what these “trigger topics” are and be aware when they’re brought up. You can determine what topics are most sensitive to each family member based on experience, especially when you’re confronted with these delicate subjects.
However, remember to be prepared to address these problems directly in a non-confrontational way — or deflect the conflict if it becomes physical. Overall, if you feel like a conversation with a family member is going in the wrong direction, it’s better to stop immediately.
Be Present, Honest, and Direct
Understand that a person trying to stir up conflict can set you off emotionally or physically — fast. Try to avoid getting into these conflicts, which often leads to you becoming “defensive.” After all, nobody wants to get into an argument or heated discussion, especially if it’s with your own family. So, stay true to yourself and keep grounded in your integrity. Do this by being direct and assertive when expressing yourself to relatives.
Stay focused on how you respond, determine when a discussion or argument has accelerated, stop the interaction, end the conversation, and leave. Don’t entertain toxic family members and go on with your day. After all, it’s not worth the headache.
Switch Your Perspective
Most individuals aren’t generally born miserable, mean, or manipulative. Sometimes, people become that way because of challenging experiences, and the best way to deal with a family member like this is by seeing their perspective. Doing this doesn’t mean you need to agree with them. Instead, this means that you need to stop taking things so personally and try to understand why they’re acting a certain way.
If you have tried everything but still have difficulty dealing with a family member, then the most foolproof method with them is limiting your interactions. The best way to do this is by keeping your relative at a distance — figuratively and literally. Although you may have to indulge in the “occasional” obligation, don’t go beyond that point and don’t let them take up space in your life and mind.
Following the strategies mentioned, whether it’s accepting a family member as they are or limiting your interactions with them, can help you avoid the most challenging situations. Doing so ensures a closer and healthier family.