Stressless Holiday Conversations, Pt. 2–Dealing with Difficult Relatives

Difficult people are available any time of year but during the holidays we get together with more people & we have the extra stress of needing to get lots done in little time. Dealing with difficult relatives is inevitable. Here’s how to deal.

You can find the first part of this article right here.

Families can provide the most stress for people, sometimes more than the obvious stressors like giving presentations, going to the dentist, or even the fear of dying. When improving our communication skills, we have to take the anxiety level of the situation into consideration. Dealing with families during the holidays are up there with the highest stress levels.

Often anxiety levels are based on our desire to be perceived in a very positive light. We want this especially from our families (as well as our bosses, audiences, and clients.)

Often anxiety levels are based on our desire to be perceived in a very positive light. Click To Tweet

Add the challenge of a very difficult relative and things escalate quickly. You can brush it off when complete strangers say insulting or rude things to you. When Aunt Betty does it, things get deep, right? Many of us start off the holidays wrong and lose sleep anticipating Aunt Betty’s annoying questions and comments.

The better way to dealing with difficult relatives

The first thing we need to do is remember that annoying relatives (mom, brother, aunt) are as stressed out, too. Probably more than you are. Let that fill you with a bit of compassion.

Don’t react immediately, either. A pause is always much longer in your mind than it is to others. Breathe in and relax your body (Come to us for awesome relaxation exercises if you want help with that.)

Repeat your relative’s message in a kinder way than you heard it. Your mother might use a tight annoying voice to ask, “When are you gonna have a baby?”

You can ask, “You want us to have a baby, Mom?”

Diffuse difficult people by validating them

Use your full, resonate voice and repeat her concerns immediately. It will diffuse her by validating her.

If your mother wants you to have a baby and responds affirmatively, you have choices. You can say, “We want one, too, Mom. You’ll be the first to know. We can only hope she’ll take after you.”

Or you could say, “We need $13,000 for IVF. Do you use Venmo? Paypal?”

But that’s probably not going to work. I recommend an uncomplicated approach where you say, “I understand your feelings, Mom. Can we talk about this another time when we’re alone?”

Remember that sometimes people say things not intended to hurt or insult you. Other times they may intentionally be caustic. It’s all about them. It has nothing to do with you. It’s they who have the negative emotions, and they are attempting to lash out at you during this especially difficult time–the holidays.

Choose empathy

Just smile at your wacky, weird and stressed out relatives. Your relationships will get better over time if you remain calm and cool while dealing with difficult relatives.

How to Not Be Nervous Before a Presentation

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What are your tricks to dealing with difficult relatives? Let me know in the comment section above.

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