We all have them: the obnoxious siblings, the drama queen mother, the trouble-maker cousin, the gossip monger, know-it-alls, rude, selfish, and even mean-spirited family members. We try to avoid them yet fate often intervenes and brings us face-to-face with our nemesis. We dread family gatherings and holidays are preceded by weeks of anxiety and fabricated excuses for absenteeism. “I like my friends much better. You can choose them and if they get on your nerves you just cancel your subscription. I don’t have to put up with their nonsense. But you’re stuck with relatives forever
While severing familiar relationships is an option for some and a necessity for others, it is a drastic step not everyone needs to take. There are other alternatives which allow us to maintain a somewhat workable rapport even with those we are not particularly fond of.
Consider the following ten suggestions:
1. Remember they are family and you share dna, other relatives, and a history. Each component has value.
2. Put everything into perspective. If the issue is minor, excuse it. If it’s critical address it.
3. Examine why you allow this person to bother you. What issues are they triggering within you? Examine and heal those first.
4. Keep in mind they are probably loved by someone you love. Treat them kindly out of respect for the other party.
5. Find something about them you admire, like or respect. (Everyone has something.) Remind yourself before, during, and after your encounter with them. Your thoughts generate how you feel and ultimately how you treat them.
6. Remind yourself that everyone has personal issues that are reflected in their behavior. Be understanding and compassionate of them.
7. Set boundaries when appropriate. Be firm and fair.
8. Keep things neutral. Avoid instigating their bad behavior with inflammatory statements, hot topics or sensitive issues.
9. Always try to bring out the best in all whom you encounter, especially those who present your greatest challenges. Be the example of kindness for them to follow.
10. Limit the amount of time spent together. Less can prevent a buildup of tension and hostility.
And here’s a bonus suggestion from my favorite doctor, Bernie Siegel: “Keep saying ‘I love you’ for three months. Then stop. They will call you.” (“Repeated acts of kindness will eventually affect and reshape a relationship.”*)
While many would prefer to simply avoid those family members they don’t care for, it is oftentimes not possible. But more importantly, you will miss an opportunity of being a vehicle for personal growth healing. One person, one time, can open anothers eyes, mind or heart which allows them to begin the journey to wholeness.
*The Orchids of Gateway Lane” by Janet Pfeiffer available @ http://www.pfeifferpowerseminars.com/pps1-products.html.