I’m fairly certain you’ve encountered at least one difficult person in your life. You know, the type of person that simply doesn’t vibe with you. This could be a former friend, a co-worker, or even a family member. Halloween just passed us, which means it’s time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and for many of us, this involves seeing family. But, with our current social climate so divisive, what do you do when you encounter a difficult family member? Especially an entire group of fighting relatives?
Lesson 1: Don’t be the “fixer.”
As challenging as it may be, accepting the person for who they are and not attempting to “fix” what you believe is broken can keep fighting to a minimum. So, choose to accept that if someone wanted to change, they would.
Lesson 2: Be assertive.
While we can avoid some conflict, we can’t avoid all conflict. If a conversation you’re in has escalated to an actual fight, it’s okay and even necessary to be assertive. After all, giving in to that one relative that always stirs the pot will only encourage further stirrage! Yes, I made ‘stirrage’ a word. Bottom line, when it comes to the important stuff, stay true to yourself.
Lesson 3: Listen.
Yes, I said listen! Everyone is entitled to be respected and have the opportunity to share their views. You want to be allowed to express yourself without interruption, and the same respect should be extended to others, even if we disagree.
Lesson 4: Remember the off-limits topics.
You know what topics will trigger your family. So try not to bring them up. If you’re uncomfortable, leaving the room until the conversation deescalates is fine, despite what Aunt Karen says. When that’s unavoidable or has already been done, see lesson 4.
Lesson 5: Be Switzerland.
When you cannot remove yourself, try to remain as unbiased as possible and not engage. If it’s unavoidable, be ready to address the topic neutrally. When all else fails, try to change the subject to deflect from such a heated atmosphere.
Lesson 6: You come first.
When the fighting becomes extremely toxic or personal, it’s absolutely okay to remove yourself from the situation.
The fighting I’m describing here denotes normal family dynamics. However, there will be circumstances in which it’s actually toxic to engage, participate, or even be around fighting. If your well-being is at risk, celebrate Friendsgiving instead or even do Secret Santa with friends. While DNA and blood connect us to family, we don’t have to take their toxicity.