It’s a fact of life that we all have differing personalities and characteristics, it’s what sets us apart as human beings and makes us who we are.
It’s also a given that because of this, we won’t get on or agree with everybody we encounter. Often, if you come across a particularly challenging or difficult person then it is easier to keep them at arm’s length, limit the time you spend with them or cut ties altogether.
But what happens when the problem person is a member of your family?
Family conflicts are often a frustrating, sad and confusing issue to deal with. For that reason, we’ve constructed some simple steps that will help you to understand, communicate and deal with difficult relatives as well as what happens when a family dispute has gone beyond the realms of reconciling.
Don’t try to fix them
It is important to accept the family member as who they are and not try to change them, this will only cause more tension and possibly steer them towards resenting you and creating more problems.
Instead, try to focus on the positives in your relationship and not on what irritates you about them.
Try to list their good traits and the beneficial impact they also have on the wider family.
Focusing on the good can help us to see perspective, keep stress levels at bay by enabling you to tolerate them more and hopefully help both parties sit down and come to an agreement.
Identify their triggers
Inevitably, there are going to be certain subjects or sensitive topics that cause disagreement. If you know that discussing a particular topic triggers their difficult behavior or ends up in a heated debate then avoid the topic altogether.
Not only will discussing trigger topics make both parties stressed and emotional, it will prevent you both from progressing in a constructive way.
Talk to them
Once you have established what you are going to say, sit down and talk to them with all of the above in mind. Make sure you are assertive by using “I” statements but don’t come across as aggressive.
Give your family member a chance to express themselves to try and get to the bottom of why they act the way that they do.
Give them a chance to fully express their point of view or why they feel judged or misunderstood.
This may help you to realize the root of the problem and find a way to solve it.
Most importantly, remaining calm is the only way that you stand any chance of resolving the issue. If your relative says or does something which annoys you, remove yourself from the situation and go and calm down for five or ten minutes or arrange another time to talk.
What if the family dispute goes too far?
Sometimes, no matter how much you love someone, want to care for them and have their interests at heart, some things can’t be easily solved, especially in the face of a resistant or defiant relative.
If matters become serious and there seems to be no way out, you may want to consult a litigation solicitor to act as a mediator between the two parties and try to come to a resolution.
Let time heal
As the saying goes, time is a healer. It is okay to take some time away from your relative to let the dust settle. At this point, it is likely that you have built up some resentments towards your family member which can make it difficult to control how you react and feel towards them.
Give yourself some time to take a break, reflect, adjust and implement the changes that have been agreed. Time may be the perfect ingredient for allowing your relationship to build and grow again and remember, that these things don’t happen overnight.