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Relatives

The Art of the Apology

Watch Dr. Rick demonstrate the Art of Apology with his two cats, teaching Neelix how to apologize and Leela for stealing her soccer ball.

Dealing with Relatives: How to Prepare Yourself for Family Gatherings

Dealing with Relatives: How to Prepare Yourself for Family Gatherings

THE RULES OF NON-ENGAGEMENT WITH RELATIVES: How to Prepare for Family Gatherings

Adapted by Dr. Rick Brinkman from the book: Dealing with Relatives, Brinkman & Kirschner.

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Relatives have a unique relationship with you that is different for three reasons.

1. You did not choose them.  Yes, you choose your spouse, so he or she is not a relative. But what most people don't realize is the spouse comes along with bonus people! Feeling out of choice can easily lead to feeling like a victim.

2. Relatives are also hard to deal with because they tend to cross boundaries that no one else in your life would cross including a good friend.

3.  And relatives who are immediate family can be tough because they themselves are triggers to the past. Just as you can hear a song that suddenly takes you back in time, so it is that a family member can trigger old ways of relating or conflicts.

Therefore the first thing to remember when it comes to attending family events is you always have a choice:

1. Go and Suffer

2. Don’t Go (and possibly feel guilty)

3. Go with a different attitude

4. Go with a different attitude and behavior

I would suggest #4, a shift in attitude and behavior. Keep in mind your ability to make that shift will serve you in many more places than just this one event. Think of it like going to the gym and you are going to work out your communication and attitude muscles. 

To support you I suggest The Rules of Non-Engagement:  

1. Decide In Advance
Make a conscious choice about the kind of experience you’re going to have when you get there, before you arrive.

Liam says:

“I make a conscious choice to have a pleasant experience, no matter what. By reminding myself what I want from this experience, I have more control over my state of mind and the tone of any conversations we may have.”                

But it isn’t enough to make the choice not to have problems with a predictably argumentative relative.  You also want to make a conscious choice about what topics to steer clear of, and what you will do if those topics come up.

Carissa told us:

 “My mother-in-law has strong opinions about everything. If I responded to the troubling things she said, just for the sake of discussion, I was guaranteed an argument, and more likely an attack, which almost always led to a fight with my husband in the car on the way back home after visiting her! But I now realize that I have a say over what ultimately gets discussed, because I can avoid the problematic topics when they come up.  Now, on the way to her place, before I talk with her, I do a little talking with myself.  I tell myself exactly what I am willing to talk about and what I’m not willing to talk about no matter what, and I stick to it.”                                 

2. Plan for Sore Subjects

 Joseane:

"My husband’s former mother-in-law is a sore subject with my in-laws. Her name was Maggie.  Mention her name to either of them, and they spin off in anger.  To make matters worse my mother-in-law somehow, she finds a way to bring up Maggie’s name to me in every other conversation. We could be talking about food, travel, pets, children, whatever, and then for no obvious reason, she brings up the subject and starts reacting to it. Next thing I know, she’s telling the same story for the gazillionth  time about how inconsiderate she was, how mean she was, how absolutely awful she was.”

"I used to try and convince her that she should live and let live, but my efforts never worked.  Now when she starts talking angrily about Maggie, I just nod my head, wait till she’s done, and then change the subject to anything else!  I am purposely vague.  I just say ‘uh-huh.’  And if she asks me, ‘What do you think?, I know she isn’t really wanting my opinion, so I say ‘Well you know what's best for you.’  And the funny thing is when I do that she tells my husband, ‘I’m crazy about that girl.  She is so wise.’”

Joseane’s plan is simple.  She acts like she’s listening, and when she’s asked to take a position, she defers to the questioner for the answer.

This is also the way to deal with criticism from relatives. You can speak to their intent instead of getting caught up in the content of what they’re saying. If your relative says: “You should dress up more,” you can say, “Thank you for caring about my appearance.”

If your parent asks you, their adult child, whether you are brushing your teeth, you can reply, “Thanks for caring about my hygiene.”

By refusing to get caught up in the content of what they’ve said, you have time to breath, gather your wits, and create a cushion of non-engagement around yourself.

3.  Keep Your Perspective & Use Reminders

Garth told us: 

“Whenever we find ourselves obligated to attend some kind of family function, I’ve developed the habit of reminding myself that ‘all things will pass’.  I get a small red stick-on dot that I put on my watch to mark the time we’re leaving. It’s a perfect stealth reminder that helps me keep my perspective.”        

You should also partner with other family members who understand the difficulty of dealing with that special someone.  Develop a signal system, exit strategy, or other method of mutual support that can get you through the worst behavior without engaging with it.

By developing your options in advance, you support yourself and transform the stress of a family event into shared success.

I wish you good luck.

;-)

Dr. Rick

DEALING WITH MEDDLERS

http://youtu.be/aNMOgcb6pvk How to deal with Meddling from the Enhanced eBook "Dealing with People You Can't Stand, How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst," now at the iTunes bookstore.

Give it as a gift for that person with an iPad. The iTunes bookstore has now added the ability to buy a book as a gift for a person.

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The Art of the Apology

With the help of his two Cats, Neelix and Leela Dr. Rick will show you how to avoid the #1 mistake made when apologizing and a 3 step strategy to have everyone let go of the past and move forward.

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Dealing with Relatives - The Five Choices

Everyone has family that is sometimes difficult to deal with. But if you’ve had it with the criticism and rudeness, if you’re fed up with interference, tired of taking orders, unwilling to be taken advantage of, or frustrated with egotism,don’t despair. Remember, you always have a choice. In fact, you have five choices:

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Dealing with Relatives - Handling Criticism

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DEALING WITH RELATIVES - Tip Du Jour "Dealing with Criticism"

When being criticized the first thing to always keep in mind is that when people criticize, they are the ones with the problem not you. They have an issue with something and are projecting it on you.

The second thing to do is not engage in the content of the communication. Keep the focus on them, not you. You do this by speaking to "intent" and not "content". Intent is the purpose behind a communication. Content is the communication itself.

So if someone makes a rude comment about how you look, instead of defending yourself you can just say, "Well I didn't realize how fashion conscious you were." You are making a statement about her, not you.

Even better is to project positive intent. That means you act like she has good intentions even if she doesn't. An example of this would be, "Why thank you for caring about how I look. That is so sweet of you."

You have now accomplished a two fold purpose. One, if she is out to get you and you can't be gotten, it messes it up for her. Second you have trapped them into the positive intent. It is unlikely they will say, "No you stupid #^&*# I'm trying to cut you down.” Instead they will not deny your positive projection and will be forced to go along with the positive direction you set.

What if the criticizer is a parent? With parents, projecting positive intent is absolutely, positively the way to go. If they say you are fat, thank them for caring about your health and well being. If they want to know when you are getting married, appreciate them for caring about your relationship happiness.

These kinds of positive projections will melt a parent. Parents in general feel under appreciated by their children. Usually when you positive project on a parent they roll over and start kicking their leg like a dog getting it's stomach rubbed. They will forget all about what they were criticizing you about and bask in your appreciation. Then you can just change the subject.

Prepare yourself! What positive projections will you say, when they say, what you know they will say. ;-)

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Dealing with Relatives Tip of the Day

Family-in-Kid-lettersFIND SOMETHING SPECIAL This is one of my favorite story / strategies told to me while doing interviews for the Dealing With Relatives book. It’s about going to a family gathering with the attitude of finding something special.

"Attitude is so important, you have to look for the good. When I was a little girl my dad used to play a game with me. We would go out for long walks, and in order to get me to walk another few minutes with him, he’d say pick a number between 50 and 200. Then we would walk that many steps, stop and look for treasure. And the neat thing was, when we looked, we always found something to treasure. Whether it was a pretty rock, a bug, or a leaf, branch, or flower, there was always something to appreciate as special.

So now when I go to a family gathering, I look for something to treasure, and sure enough, I always find something. It could be a three minute conversation with an uncle, or with a cousin I haven’t talked to before. One time I was chatting with the 24-year-old son of my cousin and his girlfriend, people I didn’t really know at all. They were fascinating people who were cool natural-food types and did interesting things in their lives. We had fun talking for an hour.

And the only reason this conversation happened was that I had decided ahead of time to look for a treasure. I saw people I didn’t know, and I sat down with them to see what treasure was there."

What's your special attitude going to be?

 

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Dealing with Relatives Tip of the Day

  Over the next couple of weeks I'll be posting my favorite stories and strategies I've heard for dealing successfully with relatives. Here's the first:

Have a Mantra. There's a couple I know, who before leaving the house for an event, will look each other in the eyes and simultaneously say, “Just visiting.”

When they arrive, but before they ring the bell they look at each other and say, “ Just visiting.“

During the event if things start getting stressful they just give each other the look and silently say to themselves, “Just visiting.”

A pair of adult sisters use with their mother, “She's just making conversation.”  That prevents them from getting caught up or taking too seriously their mother’s wild tangents or illogic. Instead they remind themselves, “She’s just making conversation,”  and that gives them permission to not engage, but just simply change the subject.

What's your mantra?

 

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