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By Dr. Lawana R. Lofton, PsyD –

How do you get along with difficult family members?  Of course we love [ all ] of our relatives, right?  Even the relationships with in-laws, but sometimes getting along with everyone during the holidays is not an easy task.  Communication expert, Sandra A. Crowe, MA., author of Since Strangling Isn’t an Option,  states that “difficult” people fall into very distinct types.  Once you know which type “Aunt Betty,” or the bothersome “Mother in-law Claudia” is, just use these proven strategies to have them eating out of your hand:

The Master of Sarcasm:  This is the brother who, when you show up a minute late responds by saying, “My, we’re punctual.” Often he believes jabbing is a way of showing affection, but that does not make their remarks any nice.  Sure-fire Strategy:  Respond with “Thanks!” Or, “I like you, too.” Generally, they will laugh and feel a bit embarrassed.

The Gabber:  Know that sister-in-law who corners you in the kitchen only to rattle on and on about her life?  She is a Gabber, all right.
Sure-fire Strategy:  Gabbers have trouble organizing their thoughts, so it is up to you to get things back on track by rephrasing for them – “So you’re telling me….” Once they are refocused, you will be able to move on.

The Know it All:   This person is easy to spot. Maybe the sister who gets insulted when you offer some input on how to solve a problem her child is having.    Sure-fire Strategy:  Know-it-alls are insecure. So if you try to convince them of something, all you will get is an argument.   Instead, agree with them whenever you can.  They will feel validated, and more open to what you have to say.

The Complainer:   Have a relative who needs to share every problem, even when the solution seems obvious?  Sure-fire Strategy:  Complainers want your attention.  There are two ways to go with them. One, set a time limit on how long you will listen ….”I’ve only got a minute.” Or two, ask questions like “What do you think you could do about that?” which will frustrate them so much, they will stop whining.

The Backstabber:  This type is often a flatterer – to your face at least!Sure-fire Strategy:  Take the Backstabber aside and tell them “I understand you said [ x ] about me.   Is that true?”   Usually, they will hem and haw, and finally apologize. And, they will be less likely to do it again.

The Waffler:  Can’t finalize your holiday schedule because a relative keeps postponing a decision on holiday plans?  Sure-fire Strategy:   Wafflers do not trust themselves to make choices, usually because in the past they made bad ones.   But you can get past their reluctance to commit by giving them options such as “We can do [ x ] or [ y].”    By taking some of the pressure off, you will help the Waffler stop their foot-dragging.

Reference:   Sandra A. Crowe, MA., Since Strangling Isn’t An Option… Dealing with Difficult People — Common Problems and Uncommon Solutions.  

Amazon Book Description (1999):  For those who feel like they are expending too much energy either engaging in conflict or desperately trying to avoid it, this refreshing, realistic guide provides accessible solutions. Readers will learn why dealing with a difficult person doesn’t have to ruin their day, the habits that cause conflict, and the techniques that can turn things around. It also gives readers insight into their own power in shaping relationships, and specific advice for handling different personality types. There really is a better way!

Until Next Time: a’ Donf

Read more about Mental Health and Psychological Normalcy in book Psychological Précipicewww.psychologicalprecipice.com . A must read to explore our evolving field of Clinical Psychology and how in a modern society interpersonal relationships remain an important indicator to gauge overall Mental Health wellness and maturity.