6 Easy Ways To Deal With Dysfunctional Family Members


Not everyone out there has a truly “dysfunctional family,” but for those who do, it can be a real challenge to deal with the fights, the grudges, and the silent treatment.   Fortunately, there are a few steps we can use to deal with dysfunctional family members so that we can maintain our relationships with our loved ones, without getting sucked into the toxicity.  This article seeks to help people who want to keep their family relationships alive, but with less drama and stress.

It can be very easy to point the finger at our family members who have hurt us and know how to push our buttons.  However, modifying our own behaviors is what will help us  deal with dysfunctional family members the best. 

The key is to adjust our own actions, without expecting our family members to change.  We each have the power to improve any relationship, regardless of how the other person is acting.  Believing in your power to transform your relationships is the key to making real progress and alleviating much of the stress of family dysfunction in your life.

You Can Deal With Dysfunctional Family Members By:

1. Centering yourself before interactions:

Before you call or visit a dysfunctional family member, take a few minutes to calm and center yourself.  Take some slow, deep breaths or even meditate for a few minutes.  Entering into a potentially hostile interaction when you are calm and centered is one of the most effective ways to guarantee the best possible outcome.

2. Keeping the conversation light:

To deal with dysfunctional family members effectively, it’s always a good idea to keep the conversation light and happy.  You can’t depend on toxic or negative people to respond to serious problems and issues in a positive, beneficial way, so why bother trying?

Instead, stick to conversation topics that you know both of you can enjoy and be happy discussing.  Some may call this “walking on eggshells,” but I look at it more as “letting sleeping dogs lie.”

Contrary to what many people think, “talking about our problems” doesn’t help anything. Positive conversations are generally a much better approach for strained relationships.

3. Abandoning negative conversations:

Does it annoy you when you’re talking to your aunt and she starts to pick on you about not being married yet, or making fun of your job? When this happens, it’s time to put the phone down.

When conversations take a turn for the negative, there’s no sense in taking the bait and getting wound into an argument.  Politely tell your aunt “well, look at the time, I really need to get going!” and excuse yourself from the conversation.

Don’t react to comments you don’t want to hear, and you will start to hear less of them.  If you refuse to give your family members an audience for their hurtful comments, they will start to speak to you differently in order to keep your attention.

4. Expressing your concerns without accusation:

There will likely be times that your dysfunctional family members do things that are very hurtful, and in times like these you might feel compelled to stand up for yourself.  If you feel that a confrontation is necessary, please tread lightly. Hashing things out must be done respectfully, so that the conversation helps to mend the relationship, rather than escalating into an even greater issue.

For example, when we are upset, many of us tend to say things like “Dad, you’re always talking about my weight and trying to embarrass me!” and while this might be true, you have just accused your father of intentionally trying to hurt you, and he will likely take offense to this accusation.

Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” you’re much more likely to hear your dad yell  “I’m not trying to embarrass you! It was just a joke, why are you so sensitive!?” Then, instead of a resolution, you have a whole new argument on your hands.

In order to be heard and supported more fully from your family members, it is better to stick to non-accusatory “I feel” statements.  For example, “Dad, when you talk about how much weight I’ve gained, I feel hurt and upset.”

By using an “I feel” statement, you express your feelings without accusing your family member of having bad intentions. People are much more likely to respond to an “I feel” statement with compassion and understanding.

5. Resisting the urge to people please:

So often when we are in dysfunctional family relationships, we have been trained into becoming people pleasers, and our dysfunctional family members have learned how to push our buttons to get us to call more, visit more frequently, and provide favors we aren’t particularly interested in providing.

Don’t be afraid to say “no,” when you really don’t want to do something.  That “no” you feel is a sign from your intuition telling you that this request is a bad idea, so listen to it!

Many people are hesitant to tell their family members “no” because they are afraid of dealing with the reaction they will get.  However, if you can start doing this routinely, you will find that your family members will change how they interact with you.  If they know that you are unlikely to respond to manipulation and guilt tactics, they will eventually stop using them on you.

Be strong, and stick to your guns the first few times, and saying “no” will get easier and easier for you.

6. Focusing on your family member’s positive qualities:

This one might seem a bit strange at first, but it’s a fantastic strategy.  So often, we notice and complain about our family members’ worst qualities, but this only brings us more of the things we don’t like.

According to the Law of Attraction, you get what you are thinking about, so the more you think and complain about behaviors you don’t like-the more of them you will see!  So, to start to turn things around, change how you look at your dysfunctional family members.

Instead of noticing that your mom talks down to you and compares you to your brother, reach for more pleasing observations of her.  Notice how clean she keeps her house, the nice gifts that she’s brought you or how well she plays with your kids.  By focusing on her positive qualities, you will start to see more of the good in your mom, and less of the bad.

Dealing with family dysfunction can be painful at times.  In strained relationships with our relatives, we often feel as if we are caught between a rock and a hard place.  On one end, we usually don’t want to lose our family members and we’d prefer to keep them in our lives.  On the other hand, we don’t want to feel abused or manipulated.  Thankfully, there are some easy ways to change how we deal with and react to dysfunction, and this can have a very positive effect on our family relationships.

Please realize that you have the power within yourself to have a good relationship with anyone you want.  While it’s generally a good idea to avoid toxic relationships with friends and acquaintances, you do not have to toss your family members out of your life in order to avoid fights, grudges or the silent treatment if you don’t want to.  By focusing on the positive, by initiating light and respectful conversations and by refusing to people please, anyone can change the dynamic of a dysfunctional relationship. 

So, what do you think? Do you have any dysfunctional family relationships, and if so, are there any other tips that you would add that have worked for you? Please comment below to share your thoughts!


About The Author

Andrea Schulman is a former high school psychology teacher and the creator of Raise Your Vibration Today, which provides free and easy Law of Attraction techniques.
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