4 Ways to Gain Respect During Family Gatherings

Health & Medical Blog

You know you are expected to attend the family gatherings at holidays or reunions, but you dread them because you don't feel respected. Your family may talk over you, make snide comments, or engage in other gestures that hurt your feelings. Some of this might be due to a toxic family atmosphere that you alone wouldn't be able to cure. However, there could be four aspects of your own attitude and behavior that require tweaking to improve your experiences at get-togethers.

1. Examine Your Own Attitudes & Expectations

You may feel like you have been unfairly labeled by family, and aren't able to counter their negative impressions of you. This is a tough place to be in, but what you may not realize is you could be doing the same thing to others.

You could be focusing on their negative actions, and also be devaluing the positive things they do. For example, a relative may have loaned you some money when you needed it, but the thing you spend the most time thinking about now is that comment they made about your job during last year's Thanksgiving dinner. Your dominating emotion towards them has become resentment.

If you can spend some time jotting down each person's good points daily for a week or so, you will find some of your resentment lifting, and your attitude will improve. The vibe you give off will be more positive and caring, which will bring better responses from others.

2. Consider Your Appearance

It is your right to express yourself as you choose, but for a family gathering that includes many conservative minded people, you might want to consider toning your appearance down if it is very wild or attention-getting. To paraphrase: there is a time and place for everything.

For example, if you have tattoos with objectionable images or words, it is probably not wise to wear revealing clothes in front of your 80-year-old church-going granny (unless of course, she has some to rival yours). Otherwise, you could be inviting negative feedback and undesired concern for your sanity.

You don't want to go overboard and project a false persona, but if you want to feel closer to your family members, don't be so in-your-face with your choices if they differ greatly from the majority of your family's.

3. Improve Your Conversational Style

Your family may want to shut you down if you tend to dwell on alarmist topics in conversation. Topics like controversial politics, conspiracy theories, and the need for prepping for some type of Armageddon scenario can be off-putting at a holiday dinner. Keep your words light and festive.

If you like to tell jokes or relate funny anecdotes, dust these off beforehand and practice telling them at home to recall them correctly, avoid wordiness, and to emphasize the right parts. Put some thought into whether the story will make a particular family member feel uncomfortable.

If someone has brought up a topic that other people are joining in on, you will be more popular if your own commentary is relevant to the conversation, and avoid the tendency to ramble or digress.

4. Approach Conflict With Care

If a conflict comes up, handle it with sensitivity and care in these ways:

  • Provide privacy for the persons involved. Go to another room or suggest a time when you can discuss the matter later. For example, if you are provoked by an putdown at the dinner table, people may not remember the original provocation but they will remember if you take issue with it right then. They will resent you for not letting it go so that they can enjoy the meal.
  • Be assertive by stating what you need in a confidential conversation, but avoid being aggressive or passive. Don't engage in name-calling or yelling, no matter what the other person is doing.
  • Allow the person to have their own point of view, even if it very different than yours. This doesn't mean their view is any better or worse. 

Reminders & Support

To gain respect, regard your family members in the most positive light possible, contribute to the conversations going on at the event in an engaging manner, and handle conflict confidentially and appropriately.

If family issues are too difficult for you to face alone, you can receive support and guidance from a therapist. This can help you to identify specific issues to handle and to lessen any confusion you may feel. You can learn ways to deal with difficult people effectively and to build better relationships with loved ones. Talk to therapy clinics like Cancer Lifeline to learn more. 


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