Ep 132: How to Respond to Difficult Family Members

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we’re in the thick of the holiday season and a lot of people are just really happy that the holidays are almost over. The holidays are just a time that they dread because they have to spend time with their families and they are difficult to deal with. 

I want you to enjoy the season with your family. I want you to feel confident and happy this time of year because it is special —and really this is valuable for anytime of the year. I want to give you some tips and some mindset shifts for dealing with the difficult people in your life. I hope this helps! Let’s get started!

 

 

 

 

In This Episode Allie Discusses:

  • Dreading the holiday season

  • What to say to nosy people

  • What to say to negative people

  • Mindset shifts for dealing with difficult people

Mentioned in this Episode:


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Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and I know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is The Purpose Show.


Hello beautiful! Welcome back to The Purpose Show! I want this episode to feel different than the other episodes that we’ve done together so far.

I would really love it if you would listen to this episode and just imagine that we are sitting together in my living room on a cozy sofa. Our legs are tucked under us, we’re curled up on a nice, cozy sofa with blankets thrown over our laps and warm cups of coffee or tea, whatever you prefer, and we’re just talking and you are safe here.

You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to feel really angry. You’re allowed to feel like this episode isn’t very helpful for you and you wish that it had other better things in it that were more particular to your situation. You’re allowed to feel all the things. I just want it to be a space for you where we can talk and all I can do is offer help out of the circumstances that I’ve lived through and the circumstances that I’ve talked with other people that they’ve lived through. I wish I could get super specific with every single one of you, your families, and your specific circumstances, but we’re going to get as close as we possibly can.

I really thought through this episode. I prayed about it. I let it kind of mull around in my head for weeks. I worked from bed today because I’m a little under the weather. If I sound a little stuffy, that’s why. I made myself a cup of tea. I grabbed my laptop, I worked from my bed and I was really thinking about you guys. I was thinking about how we’re in the thick of the holiday season. It’s almost over and I don’t want you to be happy that it’s ending soon. And I know a lot of people are happy.

I want you to feel confident and happy in this time. I want you to enjoy this time of year because it’s special. You deserve to have a good time in this season. And I know that the holidays are full of extended family members and people that we don’t see all the time. Or some that we do but we’re around them for longer periods of time during this time of the year. And it often means conversations about our lives happen that aren’t super enjoyable.

A lot of us are dealing with comments about the way we’re living our lives, the way we’re raising our kids, the job that we’re working, or the business that we’re starting, and they make us roll our eyes, feel worry, feel shame, or carry something that feels really heavy.

Sometimes in conversations other people can steal our joy. But I want to remind you that they only have that opportunity in conversations because we gave it to them.

It is a choice to hand over your joy to another person who’s talking to you and trying to bring you down. I know that’s kind of hard to hear, but it’s the truth and I don’t want to shy away from that in order to be tender-footing around and too careful.

And that’s something that I have to remind myself of. For Brian and I, there’s multiple complicated relationships and histories on both sides of our family. Sometimes when we’re in the car driving home after an event and I start to vent, cry, or get really upset and find myself saying things like, “You know, she made me feel like this,” or “He made me so mad, he ruined this Christmas party for me,” I have to remind myself that that was a choice. I gave that person my power. I want you to remember that even though it’s hard.

When it comes to talking with a person who is difficult in one way or another, and we’re in this holiday season (this episode can be listened to anytime of the year, but most of us are dealing with more of this than usual during this time of year) it really comes down to your mindset.

I wanted to kind of pep-talk you today because we still have Christmas Eve. We still have Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and lots of other holidays in the mix depending on you and what you believe, what you celebrate. I wanted to provide something valuable for you in this season.

And my apologies if this is totally unhelpful for you or you have some extreme circumstance and I’m just not your girl in this area. I wish I could be. But my hope is that the things that I can offer here will help somebody who’s been really dreading next week, who’s been really not looking forward to this beautiful time of year, who has given over her power and handed over her joy to other people in conversations.

I want to lift you up. If you don’t have anybody who’s lifting you up, I want to be that girl for you. I want to be that friend.

First of all, before we dive into mindset shift stuff about responding to difficult people, I first want to say it’s okay to not go. It’s okay to not go to the Christmas party. It is okay. If there are family or people that are unhealthy for you and your kids to be around, if there are people who are abusive, who are demeaning, if you just don’t want to spend the holidays with them, it’s okay. I want you to know it’s okay. You have permission (you don’t need it, but you have it) to not go.

I was having a conversation with one of the amazing women on my team and she was sharing with me about how when she sees her family at Christmas, they always say things like, “You guys should live closer. You guys should move back here. If you lived closer, we could watch the kids for you while you go on dates. If you guys lived closer, we’d get to see you and the kids more often.” She shared with me that she doesn’t want to see them more often for many, many reasons, but one of them is pretty, pretty strong and pretty valid. Her family is racist and they have completely different views on the world and beliefs than she and her husband do. And they’ve got kids now and she doesn’t want her daughter exposed to that.

People don’t want to hear, they don’t want to understand that maybe you don’t want to be around them. I don’t think anybody wants to hear that, but there are some people who just aren’t willing to change. They’re not open to hearing you. They’re not open to loving you. They’re not open to what offends and bothers you. And they don’t want to hear that there’s anything wrong with the things that they say and the way that they think.

Now, this woman on my team is setting a boundary of not even going to see that part of the family for the holidays because she doesn’t want her daughter hearing racist jokes now that she’s older. And I think that’s a good call. There are people out there who think that boundaries are a joke. They think that they’re selfish and I’ve gotten many messages about that, but I think that this is a good call for her.

I think the idea that we have to just suck it up and deal with it because we’re family is ludicrous. It’s all kinds of different shades of ridiculous. I also think that the call is yours to make if you want to deal with people or separate from it. If you want to continue to have to put up a verbal boundary when you’re around these people. Or have awkward, difficult conversations with your children about things that were said while they were in the room. If you want to put yourself through that stress. That might be a choice you make, but the call is yours and it’s okay not to go. And I really needed to say that before we dive in to the rest of this stuff for those who do decide to go.


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This year is actually the first year that it looks a little bit different. I’ve made a lot of changes to make the challenge give you the best results possible.

It’s not as long this time. It’s not as overwhelming this time. We’ve really simplified this simplicity challenge.

Sign up! You just go to alliecasazza.com/DLAM. You can sign up. Again, it’s free!

We are starting January 1st and you’ve gotta be there! You don’t want to miss any of it. Go sign up! Totally free! I can’t wait to see you there!


Let’s talk about some mindset shifts that I think are important. And again, this is just coming from my experience. I never get super into the details of this stuff, first of all, because don’t I need to, and I know that I don’t owe that to anybody, but also because I don’t want to hurt anybody.

The people that are difficult in my family—on both sides of our family—don’t think that they’re difficult. They don’t think that they’ve done anything wrong and they’re not big fans of me, so they could be doing the same thing to me. I know where I have been right and wrong. I know what is okay for me and my family and what is absolutely not.

I know where my boundaries are and, of course, they’re self-serving; self-serving is protecting myself. But I have gut checked my boundaries over and over again to make sure that they are not coming from a place of frustration, hatred, disdain, bitterness, greed, or selfishness. That I’m really like, “No, this boundary needs to be there because it keeps me healthy. It protects my mental health. It protects my family. It protects my children from things that are just absolutely not okay, from abuse—from verbal and other kinds of abuse.”

I’m going to share these mindset shifts to help you respond to difficult people when that’s not the case but there are just difficult people and difficult conversations happening and you’re in those situations. I want you to feel equipped.

First of all, I think it’s important to remember that you do not owe anyone anything. I think sometimes social norms make us feel trapped, like we have no choice but to say the expected thing because that’s how conversation goes. You don’t have to tell them anything no matter if they’re point blank asking. You can keep it vague if you’re not comfortable sharing.

This can go for details about your life, details about your day-to-day. You don’t owe anyone those details. You don’t owe anyone those details just because they are a part of your family. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about anything that you are doing.

I’ve gotten a lot of messages lately, because we’ve been talking about family and difficult things like this on Instagram recently (at the time that I’m recording this), and a lot of women shared that they went through a really hard divorce this year and they are dreading seeing their families for the holidays because they feel the need to offer an explanation.

First of all, marriage and divorce are incredibly sensitive, personal issues and they are not up for explaining, especially if you’re not comfortable with it. So, no. If somebody is so rude and assuming to ask you to explain such a personal and difficult decision, then they are the ones that should feel awkward, not you. So you put them right back in their place and make sure they feel the weight of how rude they are and say something like, “Oh, that is not up for conversation, and I’m going to go get a cookie,” and walk away and get a cookie for real because you probably need it at that point.

You do not owe anyone a super kind, sweet response when they are being vindictive, pushy or extremely rude. And this isn’t about being a nice person or killing them with kindness or whatever. You can do that while protecting yourself, asserting a healthy boundary and walking away. That’s a heck of a lot nicer than smacking someone, right? So, turning the other cheek in my book.

You do not owe anyone details, conversation, or an explanation. You do not owe anyone anything. You are a kind person because you care, and you can have healthy boundaries and still be kind. Boundaries do not equal jerk.

The next mindset shift is to try to remember that a lot of what difficult people say is coming from something negative in themselves. They are struggling. We can’t know exactly what somebody has gone through that day, that week, that year. We really can’t know if everyone is sharing every single thing with us. We’re not sharing every single thing with everyone most likely, right? So, they probably are not either.

And it’s no excuse for being pushy or making somebody feel bad, but it’s there and it can help you have empathy as you put up healthy boundaries, respond to what you would like to respond to, and not give details where you don’t want to.

You don’t want to become resentful and bitter like they are and start lashing out and being in that spirit, but I think it can be helpful to remember that everybody’s got a war they’re fighting in life. Everybody has ups and downs and good and bad seasons in life and you just don’t know where someone is coming from. You don’t know where somebody has been. They can be married to you and you don’t fully know. It doesn’t matter if they are family or how well you know them, we just don’t know what someone is going through.

A lot of the time when people are saying something that is trying to make you feel bad, they are the ones that actually feel bad in that area of life. If somebody is judgey, it’s likely that they’re really insecure about the choices that they’ve made, so it helps them to feel better to put somebody else down. If they’re pushy and controlling, it’s likely that they’re desperately holding onto some idea of how life should be and if you prove them wrong, it’ll shatter their world. That is not a responsibility that you should be holding on to, but it’s a good reminder that everyone has pain.

What’s that saying? “Hurt people hurt people.” It’s so true.

If somebody is pushing their values on you, trying to convince you to live how they think you should live, it’s likely that they’re close-minded and have lived that way for so long that opening up to another way is near impossible. They just don’t know any better. Maybe you can show them that their values don’t need to be everyone’s. Why should you feel the need to downplay your values for their sake? It goes both ways.

But I think a lot of the time when I talk about boundaries, people come back and they say, “Boundaries are selfish. That is so selfish of you to just want to protect your nice cushy world and not have anyone mess you up.”

It’s not that at all. It’s about protecting what is mine to protect. I am owed the privacy that I choose. And so are you. And when somebody doesn’t have boundaries, that’s very unhealthy. It’s not wise. It’s not wise for them to live that way. And it’s not wise for you to allow them to do that to you.

No one will prioritize your life for you and no one will put up boundaries for you. You have to do those things yourself. So, you have to have boundaries.

We’ve been taught this from a young age with responses like: “No, you may not touch me there.” Now you need to learn to say: “No, you will not say that about my spouse. No, you will not tell my two-year-old that she can have an entire bowl of candy when I said that they’re not having sugar today.” These are healthy boundaries and we must have them in order to coexist happily.

I want to share, too, just maybe a little bit more of an example of difficult conversations when you’re around your family. On one side of our family there’s always been this family member who hates homeschooling and tells us that consistently. And during the holidays when we see this person, she asks every time, “Are you still homeschooling?” And when I say, “Yes,” she shakes her head, sighs, and says negative things about that lifestyle. I’ve stopped taking it. I’ve started putting my hand up when she starts talking negatively, interrupting and saying something like, “You know it sounds like you really don’t like homeschooling and I have got that message for sure. I have got it. So, I think it’s really good that you didn’t take that route when you were raising kids because you seem to really not like it. All I know is that Brian and I take this year-by-year and for this year, we know we’re making the right choice. I’m going to go check on the kids.” And then I end it, call it off right then and there. I walk away.

You do not owe anyone your misery because when somebody is continuously poking at something like that, they want you to hear them. They want you to be miserable. They want you to hear that their ideals, the way they think life should go is right. It’s really pushy. It’s not okay.

Before you go to whatever the event is—Aunt Sally’s house or wherever the thing that you’re worried about is—prepare. Set the intent to pray, meditate. Even 10 minutes of just sitting still, letting go of stressful thoughts, and getting grounded will totally change how you respond for the better. Take a walk before you go and get grateful.

I’ve shared before about gratitude walks. This is where I get the kids settled or I’ll have Brian keep an eye on them if he’s home, and I’ll take a little walk up and down my street. I start listing things that I’m grateful for. It’s totally juvenile. It’s not fancy at all. It’s like, “I’m grateful for the sky. I’m grateful for the birds. I’m grateful for the sounds of nature and being outside. I’m grateful for my hair. I love my hair. I’m grateful for my skin. I’m grateful for my husband.” It’s very simple.

Get grateful. When you get grateful, it is incredible what it does to your brain and what a great mental place to be in before you walk into an event or a circumstance that might be a little difficult.

Get perspective. Remember who you are and why you’ve made the choices that you’ve made. If you made some poor choices and your family puts them in your face when you’re around them, have something in your back pocket to pull out and say like, “You know what? I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made mistakes, but I’ve definitely learned to be grateful for mine. So maybe we can just play a game or change the subject because this doesn’t really seem helpful.”

Make them feel awkward for consistently making jokes about, you know, the time you got pregnant as a teenager. I actually have a friend who that’s her situation. They consistently joke about it and her child is right there. It’s not okay.

Have a mantra written on a note card or set it as your phone background. I do that a lot. I love doing that so that you can look at it and remind yourself of what you need in the line of fire. Maybe it could be something that you struggle with like, “I am enough, I am loved.” Whatever it is that is going to make you reset when you look at it.

Think about it like this: if dragons existed, you wouldn’t go into the dragon’s lair without a weapon, right? So, prepare. It’s okay to put this thought into it.

And again, it’s okay to not go. It’s okay to disappoint people. It’s okay to change your mind and back out. It is okay to not put yourself around people who make you feel like crap, who put you down, don’t accept you for how you are, in order to enjoy this amazing holiday with your family. It is okay.

Now I’m sure I’m going to get lots of heat for this, lots of heat for saying that, but I stand against the idea that just because you’re family with somebody means that you have to put up with whatever they choose to say to you and throw at you. I wasn’t raised that way. I don’t believe that, and I think it’s ridiculous.

I think it’s incredibly unhealthy. I think it’s the reason a lot of people hate the holidays and a lot of people can’t wait for them to be over.

I’m going to stop there. I hope that these are some things that you feel you can walk into your holiday season with to help you.

I’m hoping that a lot of you don’t even really relate to the drama that I’m alluding to in this episode. That you’re like, “Wow! I’m really grateful my family’s not that bad. They just kind of rub me the wrong way a little bit.” That’s what I’m hoping.

But I know some of you have bad situations and I just want you to know that you’re not alone. You’re not alone. And it’s okay to not go.

And if you do go, and you have a relative who doesn’t get you, doesn’t agree with you or puts you down, rubs you the wrong way, take the mindset shift tips, run with them, and enjoy your holiday season.

I love you so much, friends! Thank you for listening.


This was an episode of The Purpose Show. Did you know there is an exclusive community created solely for the purpose of continuing discussions surrounding The Purpose Show episodes? And to get you to actually take action and make positive changes on the things that you learn here? Go be a part of it. To join go to facebook.com/groups/purposefulmamas.

Thank you so much for tuning in. If you are ready to uplevel and really take action on the things I talk about on my show, and get step-by-step help from me, head to alliecasazza.com. There are free downloads, courses, classes, and ways to learn more about what the next step might look like for you and to focus on whatever you might need help with in whatever season you are in right now.  

I am always rooting for you, friend! See ya next time!

 

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