We all know that family can be tricky at times. Most of us have encountered situations in which family have betrayed us or hurt us in ways we did not think were possible.
And it sucked.
It sucked because we were not expecting that from someone who is meant to love and protect us for the remainder of our lives. It also hurt more because it was so unexpected, and quite possibly because we would never think to do it to them.
Although at present most of us have adopted a “cancel culture” when it comes to these things, you may want to try to salvage the trusting relationship you had before completely cutting a person out of your life. For that, I have 9 tips for you to consider.
Be honest and sincere
I have a family member who enjoys making mountains out of ant hills. She over exaggerates every story that she tells in order to amplify how terrible or how great things are. Her motive behind her actions are for various reasons (attention, or forcing you to act in the way that she wants), however, the end result is exactly the opposite. About 100% of every other family member veers away from her quickly, and they do not seek her out under any circumstance. She therefore becomes lonely, depressed, and more desperate for new stories and content.
This is so sad to watch because if she was honest and sincere in the first place, we would not avoid her like the plague. Moreover, the younger generation that we have created in the family sees right through all her lies and attempts at manipulation. Actively being shunned or cast away from an inner circle hurts. It is not made easy when family cannot trust the words that you are speaking.
Speak honestly and openly about what concerns you. If you have a caring family, they will listen. Express your words with sincerity. You may think that this is easy to do, but I guarantee you someone out there falls in the category of a person that I just mentioned, and it may be hard to break the habit.
Let them talk
Most of us cut into conversations, not allowing another person to voice their full thought- and we don’t even realize it. I know I have done this a few times in the past and felt extremely bad once it was brought to my attention.
Make a conscious effort to allow the other person to speak and let them finish their thought before interjecting. Prior to interacting with others, especially a difficult family member, take a moment to recognize why that person is difficult to speak to.
Do they say things that trigger a type of emotion in you? Is it usually anger, frustration, or rage? If you can pinpoint behaviors that trigger any type of negative emotion in you then you can think of constructive ways to avoid or confront them.
What will you do next time that person says that? How can you let them know what they are saying is affecting you in this way respectfully?
This type of self analysis allows for personal growth. You are able to observe yourself in that moment and think of creative ways to break the habit of interjecting.
Listen while they talk
Communication is more than just the words that you speak. It involves the total experience. When you listen to someone speak, listen to their tone of voice, the facial muscles they use, the body posture that they are using.
You gain a lot of insight into your family members when you watch them as they speak. They may be verbally describing a situation in which they were happy, however their facial expression may exhibit signs of discontent.
This does not mean that you must totally discredit someone’s words. Their use of words reflect a lot of information as well. When they speak, they may be repeating a rhythm or sound that they have heard before. There have been times in which I was able to pinpoint where the individual got this information they were repeating just by the rhythm and use of words.
Effective listening is a skill that you can take into any conversation, with any relationship that you may encounter. When you are interacting with an individual who has mastered this level of listening, you can tell. Not only do you feel like your thoughts and feelings have been respected and heard, but you leave the conversation feeling as though you have fully had a great experience with that person. Wouldn’t you want to convey that feeling to a family member that you love?
Respect their individuality
You are not going to agree with everyone every time they open their mouth. That is okay. However, that does not mean that you should completely shut yourself off from the outside world.
Allow yourself to accept that people have differing opinions. In doing so, you will be able to listen to someone without getting drawn into a certain thought process or belief.
This is an empowering exercise for most people. You don’t have to conform to other people’s thought processes. Most of us are celebrating our individuality. And that is great! I love seeing that. However, we become more and more closed minded when it comes to others that don’t conform to how we think. If you want to salvage a relationship with a family member who has a differing way of thinking, you must first accept and respect that they are who they are without trying to conform them.
Do not impose your thoughts or values on them
If there is anything that drives me nuts about family is that they think they have every right to force their actions, thoughts, or words on you. Hear me well, you cannot force anyone to believe what you believe. You cannot force anyone to behave in a certain manner.
I truly admire those people who do not allow anyone or anything to get in their way of their success. However, you cannot have that same mentality when it comes to personal relationships. In order to have a trusting and loving relationship with family members, you will have to recognize that any form of manipulation on your part will sever the relationship beyond repair.
The same family member that I spoke of earlier has effectively severed a lot of her family ties in doing this. Once a person sees through your actions and your intent at manipulation, they are going to think that everything you do is to force them into doing something for you. No one wants to interact with anyone like that.
Create memorable experiences
There is something to be said about doing something for the first time with someone you love. It builds the relationship in a way that cannot be described. The shared connection that happens is really special and intriguing. You not only open yourself up to the experience but also to the other person.
When you do not impose your thoughts or values on a family member and respect them for who they are while building trust, you are able to find shared interests and perhaps something that you both would like to do but have never gotten around to it. This is the perfect opportunity to do it together!
Spending time together is an effective way of getting closer to someone that you care about, whether it be a family member or any other type of relationship. Making a deeper connection with someone gives your life meaning and adds value to who you are as a person. We are meant to connect with others. So do so in a way that is positive and enlightening to both you and the other person.
Draw them in by appealing to their likes
Building trust with a family member requires you to spend time and find similarities that you and the person can align with. Similarities in character often draw you into another person and similarities in taste often allow you to become closer and more attune with each other.
If building trust and a strong relationship with a family member is your end goal, you should consider getting to know the person and finding things that both attract and entice you to them. You can amplify this by inviting them to activities that both of you enjoy.
Appealing to their likes does not have to be totally about them. There is a person I meant that was so focused on what they are doing for the other person, but was completely oblivious to how it was benefiting him. Understand that every situation has a win behind it. Whether the outcome was great or horrible- you can still LEARN from each event, and grow from it. The lessons learned can be moved into another situation. The outcome, in time, will become favorable to you.
Do not be easily fooled (Call them out on what they are doing)
Most of us go throughout the day thinking that we did everything that we could to be a “good person.” Chances are that at some point or another you unintentionally did or said something that may have been less than favorable to someone else.
Catching yourself in this circumstance may be more difficult than pinpointing when another person does something that displeases you. This is especially true with family members. Do not allow another person to simply violate your principles. Do not allow it to go unnoticed, call it to their attention. Chances are that most of the time they did not realize that they somehow upset you.
The key to calling a family member out on their behavior that causes a riff in your relationship is the approach you take. Allow yourself to calm down and talk to them without letting your anger get the best of you. Keep your mind in the present and the message that you are trying to convey. Speak in an even tone- and discuss how the action made you feel.
If all else fails- Let them go.
After a discussion with a family member about their actions happens, watch for a change in their behavior. If nothing changes, then consider cutting ties or taking a break from the individual for a little while.
Although you may have tried to salvage the relationship a few times, the truth is that sometimes distance is what is needed for both you and the other person. You are not meant to break your values and goals if they indeed are beneficial to you. If the other person does not see how they are hurting you or respect you for the individual you are then taking a break may be the only option.
This is not to say that you cannot try again to salvage the relationship. As we all know- we humans have emotions and flaws that are ever changing. The timing to build trust may not be right, and there is nothing preventing you from coming back to regain that relationship in the future.
Bringing it all together
Family can be extremely stressful at times but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Take a conscious step toward rebuilding trust and strength in a relationship that seems weak. Remember that any relationship requires nurturing and consistency on both parts. Relationships are fragile, requiring attention, respect, and servitude.
Have you ever had a strenuous relationship with a family member? Were you able to resolve your differences or is it still a difficult subject to speak on? Leave a comment below to share your experience!
Yaritza Ellison has been an nurse since 2010. She has been essential to the healing process of many and seeks to continue to do so. Her passion for mental health and self help literature has lead her to launch justyari.org, where she aspires to coach young ladies navigating through work-life balance.