As we sink our toes into the warm sands of summer and listen the sounds of happy kids playing, many of us also listen to the bickering, complaining and passive aggressive positioning of extended family members. If you’ve got family members who drive you crazy and drain your energy, read on for summer survival tips for dealing with those annoying extended relatives.
In many families, there’s at least one family member who you dread being around. Whether it’s their passive aggressive communication style, their judgmental opinions, or their tendency to binge drink and swear at your kids, family gatherings are a challenge for many people. When my clients have a challenging relative, they always want to tell me about all their flaws, but it doesn’t help me to hear it. If you need to get it off your chest, write down everything that bugs you in your journal. Then let’s get to work changing the one person you have control over, YOU.
I know it seems like THEY are the problem but the bigger problem is you don’t like who YOU become when you are with them. Either you bite your tongue and smile when you don’t mean it, or you snap and lose your cool, or you get defensive and mirror their passive aggressive ways. All of it feels uncomfortable so the first step to dealing with relatives who bring out your ugly side, is to realize where your power lies. You get to decide how you want to feel, what you want to think and how you want to behave. Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel, while he makes his sexist comments?” “How do I want to feel when he scolds my children inappropriately” You probably don’t want to be happy about this so choose something like “I want to feel proud of how I handled it.” or “I want to feel calm and in control of myself.” When we take responsibility for our own emotions, we keep all our power instead of giving it away to someone who hasn’t earned it. “If they behave, I can be happy” means your happiness is in their hands. Stay connected to you by paying attention to how you feel.
It’s really tempting to think of all the ways they should change their behavior that would make the world a better place. Although you may not like it, the truth is people get to behave however they want. They can be stupid, mean, bellegerent, judgmental, racist, sexist, drunk, controlling, worried, whatever, it’s their decision. Try this, give your relatives PERMISSION to be who they already are. You’ve had some experience in dealing with them, you’ve made suggestions and tried to change them but it hasn’t worked. When I ask my clients “What can you trust about this annoying relative?” They say “I can’t trust him at all!” I offer that they CAN trust this person to be unreliable, to say one thing and do another, to be inconsistent. Instead of trying to change them and arguing that they should be different, recognize what you can already trust about them. The FREEDOM lies in accepting the facts as they already are and recognizing that we can trust ourselves. Some of the a-ha’s my clients have had with their families are:
“I can trust my sister to be dissatisfied.” “I can trust my Mom to make comments about my appearance.” “I can trust my Dad to dismiss my opinion.” “I can trust my uncle to repeat things he heard on FoxNews.” “I can trust my brother to one-up me.”
When sunny optimism and ‘hoping they will change’ doesn’t feel good, focus on who you want to be, and how you can trust them to behave. Giving people permission to be who they are, doesn’t mean you like it or condone it. It means you are choosing to bring more positive energy into the world, instead of letting the negativity bring you down. Good Luck!
If you want to sign up for a coaching session before your next family reunion, go to www.lifecoachingforparents.com/work-with-me