Family members can be difficult, if not downright unbearable, to deal with from time to time. No family is exempt from experiencing difficulties. It can be difficult to learn how to interact with your parents, siblings, cousins, in-laws, uncles, and all of your other relatives. Setting boundaries will help you feel more in command of your life. Maintaining your composure and reducing your stress will also assist you in feeling less anxious. Keep negative family members at bay by putting up barriers. Accept what you can and let go of what you can’t in order to grow.
Method 1 Staying Calm
1. Recognize that their gloomy disposition may have nothing to do with your presence. When someone says something hurtful in your general direction, it isn’t meant to be about you. Some people are rude and negative to a large number of people, including their own family. While this does not absolve them of their bad behaviour, it may provide you with some comfort in knowing that not everything that upsets someone has anything to do with you.
It is possible that some members of the family are dealing with difficult situations, such as the death of a family member or friend, the breakdown of a relationship, the failure of a class, the loss of employment, a recent move, not having enough money to pay the bills, or something else entirely.
Others may have a long history of depression, anxiety, or anger that they are trying to overcome. They may have difficulty maintaining control over their emotions and regulating how they feel or communicate with those around them.
2. Maintain a neutral tone in your conversations. When the conversation turns to stressful or emotionally charged topics, it is possible for relatives to become unbearable. Religion, politics, and money are all topics that can lead to stressful and strongly held opinions. Avoid the messes that come with attempting to “win” an argument.
Maintain a positive or neutral tone throughout the conversation. Never start making accusations or bringing up negative memories from your past.
3. Distract people from uncomfortable conversations. Consider the following scenario: you have an opinionated uncle who enjoys discussing politics with you, and you hold a different point of view than he does. Perhaps you’ve all been seated for dinner and he simply wishes to express himself verbally. Perhaps he has offended a few individuals in the room. Learning to redirect the conversation to a more neutral and less emotionally charged topic will benefit you and everyone else involved.
In the first instance, try to divert the conversation to something else that your difficult family member is interested in, such as sports, movies, or television.
Find a topic that your unbearable family member will be interested in talking about without offending anyone else in the process.
Something along the lines of: “Every mention of politics brings to mind a play I saw a few years ago… Don’t you remember, Uncle Jerry, that you recently went on stage to perform in a community play?”
Consider asking if you or another member of the table would be willing to speak with your uncle in the kitchen if he is being blatantly disrespectful. This will almost certainly put a halt to the conversation in its tracks.
4. Find something positive about your obnoxious family member and keep it. In the end, finding ways to connect with your family members rather than finding reasons to despise them will be more beneficial for everyone involved in the process.
Identify at least one aspect of this family member’s personality that isn’t so terrible. It could be something as simple as liking an outfit they’re wearing or the type of food they enjoy.
Say something along the lines of, “You look absolutely stunning in that sweater. What store did you get it from?” Alternatively, “What did you think of the most recent Rolling Stones album?”
5. Reduce your stress levels in the present moment. Even though some excellent stress-busters, such as exercise, can help you relax, it’s unlikely that you’ll have time to go for a run or hit the gym every time you’re annoyed with a member of your family. Find techniques to help you stay present in the moment, such as deep breathing. Bring your belly up to full capacity by taking a deep breath in for five seconds and exhaling slowly. Hold your breath for a moment, then slowly exhale. Repeat this several times and you will notice that you are starting to feel more relaxed.
Some other strategies for dealing with the person in the moment include making an excuse to leave the room, distracting yourself with something else (a TV or a dog or food, for example), and relieving stress by laughing.
6. Stress can be managed in a healthy manner. While you have no control over the actions of others, you can make every effort to maintain control over your own mind, body, and spirit. Make time for yourself to help you cope with difficult people. This will help you deal with them more effectively. Take a look at the following activities:
Exercise. Take a walk or jog around the block. Get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Take a walk in the woods. Riding a bicycle is recommended. Make a trip to the gym. Take a dip in the pool.
Make something out of nothing. Keep a journal to record your thoughts. Make some music. Draw. Make something out of nothing.
Spend time with your friends and members of your community. Look for group activities that you are interested in participating in.
Meditate. Make use of stretches. Yoga should be practised.
Method 2 Setting Boundaries
1. Communicate the issues that are bothering you. You might be hesitant to speak up for yourself or others when you first start out. However, rather than burying or repressing your feelings, it can be beneficial to address them directly when they arise. Avoid letting negative feelings fester, as this could lead to arguments and fights later down the road.
Learning to be honest about your feelings can assist others in better understanding your perspective on the situation. Occasionally, they may be able to comprehend, and at other times, they may not. They may be able to see things differently if you are open and honest with them, even if you can’t change their minds.
2. When you’re alone with the problem, take a more direct approach. Avoid making a big deal about what’s bothering you in front of a large group of people. When dealing with a difficult or uncomfortable situation, it is best to have a private conversation in order to avoid any potential embarrassment on either side.
Consider the following scenario: you’re at a family picnic with your cousin, who is playing cruel tricks on some of the younger children. First, request a minute of your cousin’s undivided attention and then request that they stop talking. If they refuse to stop, seek the assistance of a supportive adult, such as a parent or grandparent, who can assist you in disciplining your cousin. It is best not to have this happen in front of the entire family group.
3. Make use of “I” statements to avoid confrontations feeling like personal attacks on one’s person. Avoid pointing the finger at or focusing on the negative characteristics of the family member. By using “I” statements, you can draw attention away from the fact that certain actions cause certain reactions.
Consider saying something like, “I was hurt when you said that I’m terrible at making breakfast,” or something similar. Then establish a boundary by requesting that future behaviour be as follows: “Please refrain from making hurtful remarks in the future.”
Alternatively, you could say something like, “I was irritated when you yelled at me for tying the trash bags without using the twist ties as you had instructed. If you want me to do something differently next time, that’s fine, but please ask me instead of yelling next time.” “You’re OCD,” “you’re crazy,” and other similar phrases should be avoided because they are generic in their negative connotations.
4. Spend the majority of your time with family members who are encouraging. Avoid dwelling on the negative behaviour of unbearable family members, even if you are stressed, anxious, or upset as a result of those behaviours. Concentrate on the things you have control over, such as your own actions. By reminding yourself of those who are rooting for you, you can divert your attention away from difficult relatives.
Reach out to other members of your family who you haven’t seen in a while but have enjoyed spending time with. Schedule a meeting with them or call them to discuss your plans.
Do you have a kind grandmother or grandfather? Talk to them or pay them a visit. They may be able to provide insight into how to deal with difficult people.
Consult with family members whom you trust about the difficulties you’re experiencing with a difficult family member.
5. Bring the rest of the family members together to deal with the unbearable individual. If a member of your family is continuing to be a nuisance to you and others, seek the assistance of a family authority figure. You are not alone if you are dealing with a family member who is difficult to deal with.
For example, your brother may not pay attention to what you’re saying, but he may pay attention to your mother, father, or grandfather.
Even if they don’t live in the same city or state as you, comforting relatives may be able to provide assistance if you are experiencing a crisis or are dealing with an ongoing challenge with an unbearable relative.
6. Maintain a safe distance between yourself and others. Establish boundaries with family members who cause you to feel upset or anxious and limit your interactions with them. If you see them on a daily or weekly basis, this may be especially important. When you want to put some distance between yourself and others, learn to be polite. Other members of the family may feel uncomfortable if the drama is stoked.
If the relative you want to avoid is a parent or a sibling, it may be more difficult to maintain distance if you are currently living with that individual. Determine how you can create a private space in your home so that you are not bothered by your children. For example, if your sister is bothering you, find a different room to be in when you’re relaxing or doing work to avoid being interrupted.
Finding ways to keep yourself and your relatives occupied when they come to visit is especially important if the relative does not live with you. If you have guests over, do something outside or with them if they are at your house. Find environments that make you feel more comfortable so that you can limit your interactions.
If the relative is someone you only see during the holidays, it may be an uncomfortable time when you see them; however, keep in mind that you don’t see them on a regular basis and that this is a special occasion. You might be able to spend more time with other relatives, or you might be able to excuse yourself when your relative is particularly irritating.
If you’re visiting a relative’s home, find ways to get yourself out of the room or to interact with the other people in the house more frequently. If you’re an adult, you have the option of choosing whether or not you want to continue to interact with someone who is rude and mean. If you’re a child or a teen who’s been asked to go, talk with your parents or relatives about what makes you feel uneasy. Being open is preferable to remaining silent and upset.
7. Make certain that children are safe. It is critical to protect your own children as well as the children of others who may be in danger, regardless of the parenting styles of the members of your family. Safety does not only refer to physical security, but also to emotional security. When it comes to children, some unbearable family members lack understanding of appropriate boundaries. These individuals might use vulgar language or behave inappropriately. They may become aggressive toward children because they are experiencing difficulties in their own lives. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Approach the person who is acting inappropriately and request that they cease their behaviour. For example, let’s say you have an aunt who speaks in obscene terms about people you don’t like and about her sex life. It’s possible she doesn’t realise it’s inappropriate to bring up the subject with six-year-olds present. Specify that you want to speak with your aunt about her language in a different part of the room. If she continues to ignore your requests while in your home, you may want to consider asking her to leave until she demonstrates that she is capable of acting appropriately.
If things are getting out of hand, create a safe environment for everyone. Consider the following scenario: you and your two children are forced to live with an obnoxious relative who spends all of his time drinking and being obnoxious to others. You or your children may have been yelled at by your partner for the most insignificant of reasons. If you are unable to communicate with this relative about his behaviour, you may need to find a way to have the relative live somewhere else or find another location where the children can be kept in safety. Don’t allow bullies and manipulators to take control of your destiny. Keep your attention on remaining safe.
Method 3 Protecting Yourself
1. Make a strong statement. Allowing others to place blame on you or use you as a scapegoat for a problem is not acceptable. Maintain a professional demeanour while stating the facts of the situation. Stay away from blaming them or being defensive right away. The ability to communicate clearly and matter-of-factly can be difficult at times, but doing so can help you to feel less like a victim of circumstance.
Maintain eye contact and speak in a calm manner.
When having a direct conversation, keep in mind where you are in the room. When you’re with a large group of family members, refrain from asserting yourself. If possible, request to speak with the relative in a separate room or in private.
Concentrate on the subject at hand. Make an effort not to bring up the past or other issues that are bothering you. If the relative begins to stray off topic, gently guide them back to the original subject matter.
Start and end the conversation with something neutral or positive, if at all possible. Please avoid being too harsh in the conversation.
Express yourself as clearly as you need to and accept the possibility that the situation will not change after that. If a topic isn’t moving forward, be willing to abandon it altogether.
2. Make clear the ramifications of unacceptable behaviour. If a family member’s behaviour is consistently inappropriate and they are unable to be avoided, find ways to establish consequences for their actions. If they are invading your personal space or your home, this is most likely going to work. Don’t allow yourself to be guilt-tripped into accepting their poor choices.
When dealing with the consequences of bad behaviour during an argument, it is possible to become emotionally charged when trying to resolve the situation. Try to only bring up the subject of consequences when you are relaxed. Don’t use foul language when threatening someone. Maintain clarity, calm, and directness.
If you’re younger than them or under the age of 18, you should consider enlisting the assistance of an adult or parent to assist you with setting consequences.
Consider the following scenario: you have two cousins who come to your house on a regular basis and beg you and your family for money. Perhaps your cousins cause you to feel threatened. They are obnoxious and domineering, and they make everyone feel guilty. Talk with your family about what is going on and decide on the consequences that will occur if they come over to your house and demand money. Everyone should be on the same page that the cousins are not welcome if they continue to visit in order to steal money. After that, you or another family member must explain to them that if they continue to ask for money after being told no, they will be asked to leave the house immediately.
3. Accept the fact that you have no control over other people’s actions. While you may wish to be able to “fix” someone or persuade them that they are incorrect, you may feel as if you are talking to a brick wall. Some people are willing and open to change, whereas others are not ready or able to admit when something is wrong with their behaviour or attitudes.
However, while your family member’s actions or words may be causing you stress, getting back at them or attempting to convince them that they are wrong may not make the situation any better. While telling them “no” or explaining that they are not welcome because of their behaviour may result in you and your family member no longer being able to communicate, sometimes maintaining a certain amount of distance can be beneficial.
Concentrate your time and energy on those individuals and family members who are aware of their own shortcomings, are willing to admit them, and understand the importance of change.
Accepting that someone will not change does not necessarily imply that you approve of their actions or their choices. If you believe that they are difficult or manipulative, you are under no obligation to support them with your time, money, or talents on your behalf.
4. Seek assistance from sources other than your family. While advice from family members can be beneficial, it can also be beneficial to seek support and advice from others who may be able to provide an outsider’s perspective on the situation.
Discuss your concerns with friends or the family members of friends about the difficulties you are experiencing with your own family.
Discuss the difficulties you’re experiencing with your teachers or mentors.
Seek the help of school counsellors or counselling centres in your area if you are having trouble. In addition to helping you develop coping mechanisms, a therapist can teach you how to assert yourself effectively.
If you are employed, inquire as to whether your company offers an employee assistance programme. These organisations may provide free counselling sessions over the phone or in person to help people deal with difficult people and relationships.
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