Dealing with Difficult Family Members

There are bound to be some family members who are difficult to deal with. They may cause conflicts, have behavioral issues or simply frazzle your nerves. Whatever the case, it is important to know how to handle the situation when you have to be in the company of problematic relatives.

Try Meeting in Neutral Surroundings.

If you have to be present with family members, suggest meeting in a public setting, such as a park or restaurant. Sometimes having to be in a public place, rather than at someone’s home, can make people more conscious of their behavior. This also gives you the option of being able to excuse yourself and leave if your family members get out of control.

Avoid Controversial Topics

It is likely that you are already aware of topics that will set off your family members. It is best not to bring up issues that drum up anger and hurt, or discuss controversial things such as politics or religion. This can cause arguments to occur. Stick to things like the weather or pleasant past memories everybody shares and can come to an agreement on.

Keep the Surroundings Sober

Never include alcohol in the mix when you know that you are going to have difficult family members around. Liquor will almost always exacerbate an already volatile situation by further taking away people’s inhibitions. Serve or ask for non-alcoholic liquid refreshments like tea, coffee, lemonade, etc.

Concentrate On Something Positive

Everyone has some good qualities. As hard as it may be to see something positive about that challenging family member, find something, no matter how small it seems. When you do, spend time complimenting that person about the thing you like or enjoy about him or her. This may help diffuse any negativity on their part and create a more optimistic atmosphere. Even difficult people want to be affirmed.

Keep the Atmosphere Light-Hearted

Few things clear the air more than humor. Tell a funny joke or encourage other family members to tell something funny that happened to them. If you have to receive your relatives at home, invite them to watch a comedy DVD. Anything you can do to get everyone to laugh can help lighten up the environment.

Take Charge

If a family member says or does things that have the potential to lead to conflict, let them know respectfully, but firmly that this is unacceptable. You may even want to start things out ahead of time, by telling all those present you expect them to get along at your gathering. Once they know that limits have been set, it may stop any conflicts before they start.

Keep It Brief

If you have family members who continue to be difficult, you can limit the amount of time you spend with them. Avoid getting into long, drawn out discussions. Say what you have to say in as few words as possible and respond to what they say politely, but briefly. Leave the room as often as you need to.


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