Here’s a profound statement: Families don’t always get along. Let’s make that statement more personal: Sometimes your family angers you. The reality is that person after person writes in to my website asking me what to do about anger in regard to family; so I thought I’d write a short article giving you five quick tips on how you can handle anger when it comes to family.
First, it’s important to know that it’s natural to feel anger around family. Family knows you better than most (or they don’t know you as well as you expect them to know you). You’re certainly not wrong or bad for feeling anger toward your family, but you ARE absolutely responsible for the actions you take when you feel that anger. So here are five quick tips on how to handle anger with your family.
1. Align your expectations with reality. In other words, if you expect your family to be different than what they’ve shown you to be, then you are only setting yourself up to be let down. From the good qualities and habits to the not-so-good qualities and habits, it’s important to see your family members for who they’ve shown you they are. The more prepared you are for reality, the better chance you’ll have to deal with it when you meet it. Also, the more you can accept your family members despite their differences from you, the easier it will be to not get angry with them for not being what you want them to be.
2. Be easy on others. It’s important to remember that not everyone has to think the way you think, act the way you would act, or be interested in the things that are interesting to you. Just as you would want others to be easy on you for your perspective, it’s equally important to be easy on others for their perspectives as well. Again, being easy on your family by accepting them for being different from how you believe they “should” be is crucial for handling anger around family.
3. Listen to understand more than you speak to be understood. I think it’s important to avoid underestimating the power of genuinely listening to others. The more you can help others truly feel heard, the more likely they are to turn around and do the same for you. And that’s especially true with family members. Instead of insisting that your family members hear your side of what you want them to hear, step back and dedicate your entire focus to listening to them. The more you understand their perspective and can truly see where they’re coming from, the better chance you’ll have at accepting them for who they are; just as you no doubt want them to do for you.
4. Remember you make mistakes, too. Although it’s all-too-easy to overlook your own mistakes, the reality is, you hurt your family, too. We have a tendency to minimize the hurt we cause others and maximize the hurt others cause us. Now that you know that, however, I think it’s your responsibility to step back and realize that you have made an untold number of mistakes (intentionally or not) that have hurt your family as well. The more you recognize the mistakes you’ve made, the more humble you can be as you approach the family members who are currently angering you.
5. Lead with compassion. Family is family. Yes, their words can hurt, but there is also nothing quite like their love. Become a person who is easier for your family to love by leading with compassion. Whatever your differences are, your family is still your family. Be kind. Be loving. Be forgiving. Be compassionate. The more you lead with compassion, the faster you will resolve any uncomfortable family conflict.