Those Relatives

It would be comforting if we could say that we liked each family member. Unfortunately, there are always a few with unpleasant personalities.  Some could be duplicitous, monopolize conversations, insensitive, always looking for an argument, ruining family gatherings and other activities. How do we handle situations?

On the surface it would appear juvenile to ask the organizer of an event if a particular relative was attending to avoid them.  We may even behave covertly: Who’s invited? However, we have to discern if the event is worth bypassing to avoid unpleasantness, or a celebration for a relative we love dearly which allows us to overlook potential difficulties.

We also have to ask ourselves what role we play within the family structure.  Examples are:

Peacemaker.  Understands each personality among family members and works behind the scenes, speaking with troublesome relatives, warning them to be on their best behavior. They’re unafraid to rein them in, if necessary.

Lifeguard.  Saving members when a relative gets beside themselves: You attended the museum recently. Tell me all about it about it (as they escort the offended party out of the room).

Distraction Expert.  Prevents a negative conversation from brewing: I found the most amazing sales!  I’ll show you on the Internet. 

Comic.  Reduces tension in the air, disarming unkind relatives in their tracks.

These members can work in concert to prevent situations from getting out of hand.


We can’t avoid difficult relatives forever.  Being around them gives us practice for self-government, emotional maturation, and emotional intelligence when dealing with challenging personalities in general.  However, if certain family members are way too extreme in the problems they cause, the best solutions are excluding them from family gatherings, not seeking them out independently hoping they’ve finally modified behaviors, and ignoring potential fallout.


8 thoughts on “Those Relatives

  1. Professor Duke,

    LOL. I have a laid-back personality. But when I write about psychology, I add a little oomph and get to the point as quickly as possible.

    ~ Vikki

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