Tips for talking to your annoying family members (and Happy Thanksgiving!)

We’re coming up to Thanksgiving so if you’re like me, you’re thinking about food and who to invite or what to pack. You’re also probably thinking about gratitude, what you have to be thankful for. I live in Northern California, so top of mind is being safe from the fires even as the smoky air outside makes me cough.

But there’s something else going on for many of you, it’s a subject you may be thinking about but not hearing much about: spending time with family members, some of whom you just don’t like.

There, I said it!

Someone in your life pushes your buttons in all the wrong ways.

You’re fed up, about to blow, to say something you know (in that hard-to-find-right-now logical part of your brain) that you’ll regret.

I’m not talking about really hateful behavior or physical abuse. I’m talking about things like always being late, throwing your laundry on the floor, not picking up your shoes, not finishing projects on time, not getting back to you on email when you’re waiting for an answer so you can move forward…the every day annoying things that, when they fester, become hugely annoying things that make you want to scream.

Or it may be your family members who say the same things every year that throw you back into childhood patterns, responses that you feel compelled to answer with even though the rational, logical part of your brain is screaming in the background “STOP! Don’t say that! Don’t respond! Just agree! Be quiet!”

It is REALLY hard to do something different. I know. I have a family member like this. I struggle and fail. However, when I can keep my wits about me, I have succeeded and it felt great.

When you don’t give in to your emotional response, when you’re able to NOT respond in that way, it’s not lying. Its a GIFT to YOU because you already know what the aftermath is going to be. You’ve tried that other way, that response. How about giving yourself the gift of a stress free night by trying something different?

Don’t engage.

When you’re in that moment, you do have a choice.

Here’s what you can do:

  • STOP your emotional reaction by taking a deep breath. I’ll be honest, this may be the hardest thing you ever learn to do and one of the most gratifying. If you can learn to quiet the emergency alarm bells in your head, you can respond in a totally different way. Instead of being reactionary, you’ll be recognized for keeping a cool head under pressure.
  • DROP your normal defenses or your usual response. This is the little window where you can make a choice.
  • ROLL toward a more intentional response. Choose how to respond: will you stand firm and respond with a clear statement? Or will you get curious and ask a question? Instead of getting defensive, responding with a list of reasons why you’re right or talking louder, get curious. Ask a question. Try to really understand what’s going on.

Get your 1-page overview of STOP-DROP-and-ROLL to print out and keep on your desk, DOWNLOAD IT HERE.

Is there anything you can do to change THEM? Most of the time the answer is no. If you’ve been in this situation in the past (like every year around the holidays!), you know how the story turns out. They are not going to change.

So take control and own YOUR outcome.

WHAT YOU THINK: List ten things you like about this person or things they do well. You’re looking to remind yourself about the good things.

When you see that list, your complaints move into perspective. Often times, you see that this isn’t that big of a deal when looked at in perspective.

I used to get so annoyed at my husband for leaving his stuff all over the house. Like out of perspective annoyed because he knew it drove me insane and I thought he was doing it because he didn’t love me enough to pick up.

Now I choose to look at the stuff he leaves behind and think about the ten thoughtful things he’s done over the last week for me and our family so suddenly that stuff looks like what it is…not that big of a deal.

While you’re remembering the things that you like about that person, your body fills you with a rush of oxytocin. I often run upstairs to give my honey a kiss, I feel so grateful for him.

When I used to complain about the toys strewn all over the house, my mother in law would say, “Melissa, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.” And that’s a great perspective to remember.

When your parents are giving you the same old lecture about whatever it is they don’t like about your life, look at that through the lens of “They care enough about me to be worried for my future. This is what they think will keep me safe.” Through that lens, you might be able to stand an afternoon of Thanksgiving without blowing a gasket.

Good luck, happy Thanksgiving and comment below to tell me how it all went!



P.S. Want to wrangle that fearsome beast of your mind into a docile puppy full of love? I’m feeling poetic today! Explore more solid ways to take control of fear and hesitation in my class Fearless Mindset: Increase your confidence so you can take the next step. Check it out HERE.

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