How to Deal with Family Drama (For One Last Time)

Rachel Sharpe

Whether it’s the holiday season, someone’s birthday, or a wedding, sometimes we’d rather skip out on the event rather than have to figure out how to deal with family drama. Most people are annoyed by family members fighting over money when someone dies instead of grieving. You might also be sick of people asking the same annoying questions about when you’ll have a baby, especially when you’ve suffered miscarriages. Dealing with difficult family members is never easy. However, if you’re looking to skip out on those awkward conversations or stay out of someone else’s argument, we’re going to share some proven tactics on how to deal with family drama.

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How to Deal With Family Drama (For One Last Time)

1. Meditate before the event

Before you walk out the door for your family gathering, follow along to a guided meditation. A few meditations that might be helpful are a loving-kindness for difficult people meditation, a guided meditation for anger and frustration, or even a guided meditation for anxiety and panic attacks. All these meditations can be found on YouTube. However, if you’d prefer, you could download the Declutter The Mind app, which boasts an extensive collection of meditations that you can follow along to in as short as five minutes or as long as an hour. By meditating before the event, you can slow your breathing down, which will help you feel less stressed and approach the event with a sense of inner peace

2. Breathe before speaking

Before having a difficult conversation or showing up to a family event, a helpful tactic is to take a deep breath. For example, You might ring the doorbell to someone’s house and take a moment to breathe deep. Or if someone who brings a lot of tension walks into the room, you could take a breath. Doing this helps ease the tension in your body while keeping you calm. Avoid letting people see you take a deep breath as it might come across as passive-aggressive. You can do this in the bathroom if you need a moment to yourself before conversing with someone. Keep in mind that sometimes people don’t want to deal with family drama either. So, if you breathe and start the conversation on a positive note, it can reverse a situation in many cases. 

3. Be firm about your decision

If you have decided not to get involved in someone else’s drama, be firm about your decision. If people choose to gossip about it with you encouraging you to take a side, you can respectfully tell them no. Telling someone that you don’t want to get involved in the situation can make your life easier. Let both people know that you love them and hope to resolve the situation together. Don’t act as a mediator because then you become involved in the situation. Someone will always assume you took somebody’s side if you get involved. 

family drama

4. Be direct in describing your feelings

Describing your feelings bluntly can help people understand your pain and stop the family drama. For example, if someone is always asking you why you aren’t pregnant yet when you’re trying, you can tell them that the question makes you feel uncomfortable. You might describe the pain of suffering a miscarriage. As a result, people begin to feel awkward hearing the story, and they’ll stop asking about it. If a parent is fighting with a sibling over money due to a grandparent’s death, you might tell your parents that this argument is causing you grief as you want the family to get along. If a parent is constantly commenting on your weight, tell them that you understand their concern and that they could join you in a walk and talk around the neighborhood after dinner. 

5. Discuss your needs before the event

When thinking about how to deal with family drama, consider discussing your needs before the event. For example, if you’re about to have a holiday dinner with the family, let difficult family members know what unacceptable behavior is in advance. Let them know they’ll be asked to leave if that behavior occurs. Informing family members that you want a peaceful, drama-free event isn’t a lot to ask. Telling family members which topics are off-limits or inappropriate can help reduce the chances of them bringing it up. Remind them of your needs for peace of mind. Let them know that you want to enjoy spending time with them instead of worrying about their behavior. 

family conflict

6. Speak slowly and avoid yelling

When tensions arise, you’re sure to find someone speaking rapidly or loudly. Typically, we expect people to react explosively when we tell them something to provoke them intentionally. If you notice someone is trying to get a rise out of you, don’t entertain them. Instead, do the exact opposite of what they expect. Speak very slowly. Think about each word you use when you communicate with them. Don’t raise your voice in any circumstance. Showing explosive anger or emotion gives them power, which is exactly what they want. 

Communicating matter-of-factly helps you retain control of the situation. Unfortunately, keeping your cool might make them mad, and you can’t control how they’ll react. However, you can control yourself and how you handle the situation. It’s better to be the bigger person, knowing you handled the situation with grace instead of stooping down to their level. 

7. Avoid alcohol

The more you drink, the less control you have. Keep this little life lesson in mind as you attend family gatherings. While it’s easy to drink to numb the pain of a hurtful exchange of words, family drama can get out of control with alcohol. Bad decisions are typically made under the influence. Whether you’re the one making a mistake or you’re on the receiving end of it, avoid family members who have drunk more than a couple of glasses of alcohol at events. And if it’s within your control, avoid drinking altogether as it can prevent a lot of family drama around you. 

alcohol

8. Ask questions instead of giving answers

When dealing with family drama, consider asking more questions instead of giving answers. Often, when we overshare how we feel, it’s used against us, making us feel more frustrated or angry. Instead, ask questions to help understand the other person’s perspective. Don’t use what they say against them either. Just hear them out. You can’t resolve family drama if you don’t actually hear what the real problem is. And most of the time, people shelter or hide the actual problem because they don’t realize it themselves. Try to find out the root of what’s causing the pain. It’s usually not as superficial as money. It often goes back much longer and deeper than the current situation. Maybe there was an ongoing secret feud for years, and it reached a boiling point. The more you can uncover, the easier it’ll be to solve the emotional pain

9. Change your perspective 

Changing your perspective doesn’t mean changing your mind about a situation. Instead, it means understanding that not everyone has communication skills or coping skills to help them deal with pain. Sometimes, we’re more evolved than other people at communicating our needs. If other people aren’t, we think they’re the problem. However, sometimes, people genuinely don’t have any skills for expressing how they feel, nor do they know how to deal with the pain of family drama. Maybe, they feel like crying or screaming all the time. It’s possible that negative thoughts race through their mind all day. Perhaps medication would help minimize ruminating thoughts, but they don’t want to seem weak or crazy.

Look at family drama from the perspective that people are simply struggling. Everyone struggles differently, and not all people know how or when to ask for help. When you look at toxic people as people who are in pain, it’s much easier to come to a resolution. It might be hard to break through that shell after this has been going on for years. But it’s easier when you approach with empathy vs sympathy. So, be kind to them and meet their needs of love and compassion. 

upset over family drama

10. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries allows you to keep yourself safe and sane when family drama is all around you. Remember the power of saying no. You can tell someone you don’t want to engage with them or talk about something, mainly if it’s an inappropriate setting. 

You can also set boundaries around who you want in your life. If someone in your family causes you pain, you can choose to cut contact with certain family members. Even though some people may judge you depending on which family members you cut out, sometimes it’s best for your mental health to keep a distance from people you’re supposed to love greatly.

11. Accept imperfection

As you and your family deal with family drama, remember to accept imperfection. Not everyone knows how to deal with their pain. Also, you might end up regretting something you said in the heat of the moment because you’re in pain too. Dealing with sensitive topics and difficult people is no easy feat. So permit yourself to learn how to have these difficult conversations through practice. Maybe things won’t go as well as you hoped, but with time you’ll be able to get better at standing up for yourself and resolving conflict.

12. Speak from your point of view only

When dealing with family drama, avoid speaking on behalf of other people. You wouldn’t appreciate people doing that for you, so don’t do it for others. Often, when we speak for others, things get taken out of context. Let people speak for themselves. Speak from your perspective only. By sharing your point of view on the situation, you can rest assured that you won’t be stepping on other people’s toes, nor will you be bringing other people into the situation. When you tell people your side of the story, they gain the context to build empathy with you. Ultimately, you can reach a solution when you speak for yourself and from the heart. 

stepping on toes

13. Tell the truth

As you learn how to deal with family drama, always remember to tell the truth. There’s no benefit to you or anyone else to lie or sugarcoat what the problem is. If you don’t realize why you’re feeling so pent up about something, don’t make something up that sounds nice. Get to the root of the problem. Be open about how you think and why you feel a specific way. It’s so important for you to have your needs of safety and love met. But no one will be willing to give them to you if you’re screaming at them and don’t tell them what’s really wrong.

It’s often hard to discuss our pain as it’s rooted in trauma. Having an open conversation with family members who have caused our trauma is never easy. However, if you want to bury the hatchet and move forward, sometimes you need to have those painful conversations. A special occasion like a wedding or Christmas isn’t the best time to have this conversation. However, if you have family drama, consider meeting with that family member to discuss your issues prior to any big family gatherings calmly. 

Conclusion

As you figure out how to deal with family drama, you’ll quickly realize it’s not always easy. However, it’s much easier to be met halfway, when you approach the situation with empathy, love, and honesty. Not everyone has the coping or communication skills to understand your point of view. Know that many difficult people are simply people in unmanageable pain. While the decision is never easy, there may come the point in time where you decide that you don’t want a specific person in your life anymore. Ultimately, you need to decide what boundaries you set. You need to have self-respect. Knowing that you tried your best to deal with family drama is all you can do. May you have peace in your future relationships with family members. 

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