Do you have toxic family members that make you dread the holidays? Maybe you do a great job avoiding them all year but you twitch at the thought of getting together with them on Christmas.
Toxic people are all around us. Perhaps you’ve encountered them in your workplace and you strategically avoid them. Or perhaps they are in your church and you conveniently take cover when you see them coming.
We all have our way of dealing with the toxic people in our lives and it usually involves some form of avoidance.
But what happens when those toxic people are sitting at your holiday dinner table and avoidance is not an option?
In my counseling and coaching practice, one of the most difficult times of the year is the holidays. Not for the loneliness you would think, but for the stress that toxic family members bring.
A part of you wants to love this person but you just can’t handle the way she treats you. What do you do? Following these dos and don’ts can bring peace your holiday season—and possibly the relationship.
Don’t get sucked in. Toxic family members often have a dysfunctional and possibly abrasive way of communicating. If you can remain detached from the emotions that are rising up in you, you will be more successful at communicating your feelings.
Do hear the person out and respond in a calm, mature manner. It may help to take a few deep breaths. This will help to train your brain to think first before speaking. This will likely not change them but it will stop the dysfunctional dance.
Don’t sacrifice yourself for the sake of the relationship. The Bible says when possible to live at peace with one another (Romans 12:18).
So, do the best you can to live peacefully but do recognize that a relationship takes two and if the other person is not willing to work with you, it is OK to disconnect for your sake. The Bible also says to guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23), so there’s no justification for staying with an abusive, hostile, manipulative person, regardless of his familial position in your life. Keep in mind, that the time will soon be over and you get to disconnect, they still have to go home with themselves.
Don’t point fingers. Many toxic family members are difficult because they lack empathy and have inadequate coping and communication skills.
Instead, do focus on how their behavior makes you feel. Avoid statements such as, “You make me…” or “You never….” Instead say, “I feel ___________ when you ____________.” Look to see if the toxic family member will assume responsibility or, at the very least, acknowledge your feelings. If you are met with blame or ridicule, you’ll know you are dealing with a person who has little interest in your wellbeing.
Don’t feel as if you have to explain yourself. Justifying your actions is not necessary. I love the way the Bible says it in Matthew 5:37, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”
So instead, do set boundaries and don’t feel guilty about it. If this person loves you, she will respect your boundaries, even if she doesn’t agree.
Learning how to handle toxic family members takes time. You don’t have to keep the stress and anxiety bottled up inside of you. You can handle toxic family members with grace and dignity.
Many make the mistake in thinking that as soon as they employ healthy strategies, the toxic family member will straighten up. This almost never happens, so don’t expect it.
Your toxic family members may never change, but you don’t have to let them rob you of peace and joy this holiday season.
For more help, grab your copy of Toxic People Survival Guide and learn how to identify and deal with the 5 different types of difficult people.
If you struggle with negative thought patterns that are stealing your happiness, join me for a one day intensive Saturday Jan 20th 9 am – 4 pm to “Overcome Toxic Thoughts” It’s time to win the battle in your mind. Can’t wait to see you there.click here for more info