Talking to Upset Family Members
Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated October 5, 2021)
There is an old saying that no one can hurt us more than those who love us. An example of this is when family gets upset, how quickly the situation can turn nasty. For some reason, when we get upset with family members, we stop listening, and we start trying to hurt one another. Usually this isn't a conscious decision. Rather it is some thing that goes along the lines of: "Well, if Aunt Muriel is going to bring that up, then I will bring this up." Talking to upset family members, while difficult, is something that can be done properly. All you need to do is organize yourself before you begin the conversation. Here's how.
- Why are you having the conversation? The very first thing that you need to know is why you are going to be having the conversation. Why do you need to have this conversation that can potentially turn ugly? Is this any of their business? If not then don't have the conversation with them. However, if it is something that can potentially affect them, or your relationship with them, then you need to have the conversation with them. Keep this reasoning in mind as you talk to them.
- Who is involved in the conversation? Everyone has a different personality, and it is a good idea to consider that before the conversation begins. Is Uncle Bob a person who can fly off the handle easily? Is your sister someone who can easily take offense when something isn't said in exactly the right way? Take some time before the conversation to think about this, and formulate the proper way to talk to them.
- What are you going to talk about? It should go without saying that some topics of conversation are going to be inherently touchier than others. For example, if your parents happen to have strong views about how certain things should be done, and this topic is one of those things, then be aware of that. Don't automatically expect the person or people that you are talking to will go along with whatever you say. Be prepared for the conversation to be a difficult, and possibly painful.
- Where will you have the conversation? When preparing to talk to an upset family member, remember: "Location, location, location." Where you have your conversation can often have as much of an impact on the conversation as who the conversation is with. Try to choose a location that will promote a general sense of calm, and help people to keep their emotions under control.
- When will you have the conversation? Conversations and discussions with upset family members will invariably take a long time. Do not expect the conversation to go quickly and be over in an hour. Rather, set aside as much time as possible for the conversation. In addition, choose a time when both you and the person that you will be talking about are fully awake, and not sleepy. People tend to get cranky, or loose some of their inhibitions when they are tired, and will chalk it up to "Oh, I was tired. I didn't mean it."
- Don't let yourself loose control. In the end, there is only one person that you can actually control when you are in a tough conversation with an upset family member, and that is you. Going into the conversation with the determination to not get upset at whatever may be said can help make sure that you still have a family member at the end of the discussion. While they may say things that are hurtful or spiteful, it is how you react to them that can determine the outcome. Often, by being the calm and collected one in the conversation can help ensure that there is still going to be a discussion.
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