How To Deal With Difficult Relatives

By Subodh / November 23, 2013

As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water. Now here’s a hard truth: not all of our relatives are good with you. Well, at least that’s how most of us feel anyway. So why is it important to deal with such relative in the first place then? Let’s see.

Your family is generally a network of people you can always fall back upon when you are in need of help. Whether it is about meeting your family in different part of the world when you travel or family get together during various festive occasions like weddings, Christmas or Thanksgiving, your extended family and relatives add an extra source of joy to your life. During painful times like death of a loved one or during times of distress or emergencies, your relatives provide the much needed solace and succour. But what do you do when some relatives in your family start becoming a source of pain?

There may be some annoying relatives who are difficult to deal with. It could be a complaining aunt who is always grumpy, a pesky free rider cousin who wants to keep borrowing your possessions without returning them or a gossip monger sister-in-law who wants to earn you a bad reputation.

Difficult Relatives

Understand where you are going wrong first

When you point a finger at someone else, remember that the rest of the fingers point at you. If you are finding it difficult to deal with your relative do a quick introspection to see whether you are at fault and what you can do to improve the situation. Like they say people who live in glass houses do not throw stones at each other. Are you being an equally difficult kin to have? Look around for feedback from your close and favoured relatives who could give you an unbiased feedback. Here’s a quick checklist to see whether you are pressing their pain nerve:

  • Have you been talking about them behind their backs?
  • Have you been recklessly missing their birthdays and anniversaries?
  • Have you been coldly turning down their part invitation?
  • Have you been forgetting to include them in your home party list?
  • Have you been taking thankless favours from them and turned down every opportunity to payback?
  • Have you been acting snooty about your newly acquired wealth or your recent accolades?
  • Have you been treating them in a condescending way?

Understand their pain

Sometimes your next of kin could be in pain due to bad losses, high expenses, sky rocketing mortgages or other family troubles bothering them. They may not be able to express it to you in clear words and hence may act annoyingly or unpredictably to release their emotional outburst. There may also be a hint of jealousy adding to their woes especially if their finances or child’s progress or career looks pale in front of yours. It is important not to judge your kith and kind on face value and strike them off as an unwanted irritant.

Make the effort to talk to them and understand their pain points if any.

Earn their trust and offer help

Have you or your parents been offered help by your family? Now is the time to pay it forward. Like they say, charity begins at home. If you are god fearing and wish to do good for others, start with your own folks.

Once you sit and understand the pain point of your relative under the scanner, don’t just sit on that information. Offer help to the extent you can. However do that humbly without the slightest hint of arrogance and high handedness. Appreciate the fact that your relative has trusted you to share his or her personal matters with you and is now vulnerable to you.

You may be tempted to offer advice to your relative in question. Remember unsolicited advice may work adversely for you as your relative may become defensive about his or her problem. You can use the “feel- felt- found’ technique to offer any sort of advice.

Confront before conflict

If you feel that the relative is being difficult beyond reason you may need to talk openly about what is bothering you about his or her behavior.

At times relationships become like nail varnish on horse poop. This means that there is so much dirt beneath the seemingly happy and friendly faces. There is no point piling away unsaid hurts and past grievances and put up with friendly but fake demeanour. The mask would eventually come off as the relationship is bound to become phoney and hence, stifling.

So take off the dust you’ve been brushing under the carpet and spell out your pain problems to each other clearly.

A few pointers to keep in mind while addressing a confrontation include:

  1.   Have an unbiased party to conduct the confrontation
  2. do not use foul language or show rage during the confrontation
  3. Clear out all the points that have been bothering you about the other person.
  4. confrontation should be about the issues and not about the person
  5. Be open to listening to the other side in the confrontation.

Be stern and terse

If the relative is acting in a stubborn and egoistic behaviour despite having an open conversation about his irritable behaviour it may call for being terse and strict with him or her. If you keep taking his nonsense he would only be ready to offer you more.

Make sure it doesn’t become a habit and you don’t become an easy victim by tolerating his unwarranted conduct.

Avoid and ignore

If despite several warnings and repeated discussions your relative does not budge from his devious character, it may warrant you to completely snap off the family cords with him. You may make that known to the other family members as well so there is utmost clarity about your decision to everyone. This decision would need to be a thoughtful and decisive one. Make sure you don’t carry any angst against the relative and forgive and forget the past.