How to Exercise Patience With a Difficult Family Member

Most of us prioritize family values, spending as much time with our families as possible while trying to build and maintain the best relationships we can with those individuals. But we have to be honest; sometimes, it’s incredibly challenging to remain patient and loving with especially difficult family members.

What strategies can you use to exercise better patience with the family members closest to you?

Types of Difficult Family Members

First, let’s take a look at some of the most common types of difficult family members since “difficult” could mean any number of things.

· Afflicted or infirm. Sometimes, family members are difficult because they’re dealing with something related to their mental or physical health. Even a relatively polite, easy-going family member can eventually cause stress if you’re serving as a home caregiver.

· Confrontational. Some family members are difficult because they’re overtly confrontational. They’re bluntly honest, often to the point of being rude, and they have difficulty controlling their anger or irritability.

· Overly sensitive. Other family members are difficult because they’re overly sensitive. If you say or do something that they take the wrong way, it could ruin their mood for days. These types of family members may also be exceptionally picky or opinionated.

· Instigating or gossipy. Instigation is an even more toxic trait. Some family members make it a point to gossip, talk about people behind their backs, or otherwise instigate conflicts in a mostly peaceful household.

· Judgmental. Judgmental family members see themselves as better than everyone else or otherwise feel the need to pass judgment on everyone else’s decisions and practices. Nobody likes to exist under this scrutiny.

· Passive aggressive. Confrontational family members are difficult, but at least they’re direct. Passive aggressive family members often make snarky or subtly insulting comments as a way to engage in conflict without being directly confrontational.

Each of these types of difficult family members requires a slightly different combination of tactics, but they can all draw from the same pool of patience exercises.

Exercising More Patience

These strategies can help you exercise more patience when dealing with especially difficult family members:

· Be polite and direct, yet firm. Be polite and direct yet firm when addressing someone’s problematic behavior. Don’t attack the person’s character, but do attack their behavior, explaining why they’ve done is problematic and how they can fix it. Avoiding the problem isn’t solving anything, and being too challenging or rude could escalate the conflict.

· Take deep breaths. The simple act of breathing deeply can almost immediately reduce your stress. Before talking to any family member about their problematic behavior, and before snapping at someone you live with, take some deep breaths or practice some specific deep breathing exercises.

· Acknowledge and separate yourself from your emotions. One of the biggest components of exercising patience is getting control over your emotions. Too often, people respond rudely or impatiently simply because they feel a surge of anger or frustration while having little to no control over those feelings. One of the best ways to gain this control is to acknowledge and separate yourself from your emotions; when you feel angry, take a moment to acknowledge it and remember that your consciousness is somewhat separate from the content of your current emotions.

· Get some space. Remove yourself from the situation when you’re feeling especially frustrated or impatient. That could mean going to your room, walking outside, or even just going to the bathroom. When you have a moment to breathe freely and think clearly, you’ll get to a much better position to act.

· Deescalate and reduce tension when possible. Never deliberately escalate a situation; your goal should always be to de-escalate. Try to reduce tension by acknowledging other people’s feelings in the room, engaging respectfully, and making the situation a bit lighter with smiles and humor.

· Use calming self-talk. Practice calming self-talk to keep your cool in even the toughest situations. If you’re used to talking to yourself in a negative or toxic way, this can be a tough habit to change; stick with it.

· Practice meditation. Mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways to destress and gain more emotional composure in response to a disruptive event. If you practice it regularly when you’re not emotionally heated, you can use it more effectively in those tense moments.

· Journal regularly. Finally, make time to journal. Express your true thoughts and feelings – and try to better understand any instances of low patience you’ve recently experienced.

Your family members may never be easier to get along with, even if they change some of their most problematic behaviors. But if you’re a more patient person and you exercise more emotional control in your daily interactions, you’ll all be in a much better place.




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Rasha writes about family, parenting, and home décor for Unfinished Man. Drawing from her experiences raising her own kids, she provides tips on creating warm, welcoming spaces. Rasha also shares home staging expertise to help transform houses into magazine-worthy dream homes.

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