How do I Deal With a Negative Family Member?
I have a family member who I feel constantly looks for the negative and directs all conversations in that direction. How do I cope without total avoidance?
Thank you so much for your question and thank you for your permission to share it with my ezine readers. When I received your question I had a really strong feeling that so many people would relate so I appreciate you allowing me to respond this way.
The truth is, many of us deal with negative family members, spouses, co-workers, colleagues, friends, employees and more. So what's the best way to handle a situation like this? Well, before I begin, I will tell you that the solutions I offer are my opinion. Take what works for you and leave the rest.
Break it down into Two Parts
For me, I have a rule in my life that any time I struggle with a relationship I instantly break it down into two parts. The first part is always about 'what's in it for me?' In other words, if I am bothered by someone's behaviors, actions, words, etc. in a particular relationship, that's my clue that there is a lesson in it for me in one way or another. The way I see it, if there was nothing for me to learn there would be no trigger at all. So a quick rule of thumb: if it triggers you, it has something to teach you. So let's start with you.
What’s in it for Me?
What is this particular family member showing you about yourself? Maybe it's that you need to learn to stand up for yourself by setting clear boundaries. Maybe it's that you, yourself, have a negative attitude about something in your own life? Maybe it's that you are being critical because you are annoyed with this person for completely different reasons but have never spoken your mind about it to her/him. Take some time to reflect about this. If you dig deep enough, you'll certainly find the golden nugget hidden within this particular dynamic.
What’s in it for them?
So let's talk next about the second part. If the first part is all about you, then the second part is all about the other person. Chances are very good they also need to learn a lesson from their behavior, but let's face it, you can never make someone else learn a lesson right? Trying to change another person is like trying to change the weather. Good luck. So what do we do? We accept them and we let go and let God.
Now this isn't always easy and it doesn't mean we allow other people to affect our peace of mind. In your particular situation, you will need to set clear boundaries and vocalize those boundaries.
Setting Clear Boundaries
Here's an example: when your family member takes a turn toward negative discussion, you can say something like this, "I'm really working hard to stay focused on positive things in my life so I'd rather not talk about that right now." If they become offended, explain to them that's it not about them; it's about you trying to make positive changes in your life. From there you can change the subject and talk about something uplifting. You might even want to prepare a few ideas before you visit with this person. Ex. Positive things you can bring up.
If your family member's behavior persists even after you've voiced your boundary, maintain your position by repeating your original request. If your original request continues to be disrespected, then explain to your family member that you will have to end the conversation.
Here's an example: "I feel like I've been really clear about the kind of discussion I want to have. Can we please change the topic or would you prefer getting together another time?" (Hint – the best practice is to get your point across as firmly and yet as calmly and kindly as possible.)
To sum it up, the first part is to ask yourself what the particular experience trying to teach you about yourself. The second part is to accept the person as they are without trying to change them and yet setting clear boundaries. Express what you need and stick to your guns girl! You can do this!
Cheers to your massive personal success!
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