Everyone gets mad at family members occasionally. Whether you’re irritated by a parent’s interference, a child’s disobedience, or a spouse’s inattentiveness, it’s important to learn how to manage anger before it starts to manage you. The thing about anger is that it often rebounds on those who initiate it.
Get hold of negative emotions before they take root in your heart and grow a cluster of inappropriate actions. A nasty attitude, hurtful words, or a cold shoulder are not the way to resolve differences. Instead, give some thought to trying these suggestions:
- Talk it out. If a family member offends you, wait for the right time and let that person know. Sometimes we say things without meaning them, or without realizing their effect on others. Give the person a chance to explain his or her intentions before describing your feelings. Chances are a good, open talk will help to clear the air between you. Choose a private meeting area away from others, preferably in a public place to avoid the meeting occurring on someone’s turf. Be prepared to listen long and talk little.
- Forgive and forget. If a relative continues to hurt you over time and apologizes after each occurrence, learn to forgive and move on. Don’t set high expectations for this person to change in the near future. Instead, accept her “as is” with the understanding that the hurt is probably unintentional. While it is all right to point out the problem behavior as it takes place, you may have to accept that the relative is unable to control words or actions that lead up to the infraction, perhaps lacking emotional maturity or personal responsibility.
- Practice avoidance. If your family member continues to offend after you have made it clear how you feel, you may need to step back from the relationship and give the other person some time to think things through. That doesn’t mean you give the cold shoulder whenever you happen to meet or refuse to return calls or be friendly at social gatherings. It means that you maintain a friendly tone if your paths happen to cross at family events, but keep your distance in terms of initiating one-to-one meetings.
- Seek a mediator. If the conflict escalates or it becomes necessary to find a resolution, ask a neutral family member or third party that both of you trust to hear both sides and try to work out a compromise. Sometimes those too close to a conflict are unable to sort the issues like a third party can.
- Be kind. Those who are hardest to love are often the ones that need it most. If your difficult family member is stubborn or difficult, try to maintain a friendly veneer without endorsing problem behaviors. Send a card, take over a plate of cookies, or mail a gift. When an unlovable person feels loved, his or her outlook can change dramatically.
The bottom line is to never stop working on family relationships. Though you may need to take a time out, keep a degree of distance, or surrender hopes of relational growth, you can still maintain a family relationship through patience, perseverance, and persistence.