How to Deal with Annoying, Difficult, and Disrespectful Siblings, According to 7 Experts

No one wants to be with problematic people. Let alone problematic brothers and sisters. So what can you do?

We asked seven experts to share their most effective tips on how to deal with your annoying, difficult, and disrespectful siblings.

Here are their answers.

Dr. Nicole L. Arkadie, Ed. D, LCSW, PPSC

Dr. Nicole L. Arkadie, Ed. D, LCSW, PPSC

Mental Wellness Expert

Serenity now and peace be mine

When you have siblings who are annoying, difficult, and disrespectful, it can be very challenging to maintain your sanity, keep your cool, and to remain peaceful towards them. However, it can be done. You can’t change the way your siblings are, but you can change the way you react and respond to them.

You don’t have control over such behaviors of your siblings. Yet, you have control over how you allow their actions to affect you. The following are items for you do to ensure you aren’t the topic of discussion during the next family event because you had an explosive angry outburst.

Know your bill of rights

You have the right to be the healthiest person in the room. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. You have the right to be angry with someone you love. Knowing your rights will help you set appropriate boundaries with your siblings.

Set personal boundaries with your siblings

This is where you make an invisible line/barrier on the ground. Let them know what is an acceptable and unacceptable behavior towards you. Tell them what they can and can’t do or say to you and what the consequences will be if they violate/cross your boundaries.

Prepare yourself mentally

Before going to family engagements or events where your siblings will be, you’ll need to prepare yourself mentally. Remind yourself how annoying, difficult, and disrespectful your siblings are but that you aren’t going to react to them.

Use positive self-talk

Tell yourself, “I got this. I’m not going to let them ruin my day.” Be your own own personal coach. It’s like a boxer mentally preparing themselves before a fight to get ready.

Be grateful that you don’t have to live with your siblings

You can do anything for a short amount of time. It’s just reminding yourself that you are going to be okay, that you will not allow your siblings to ruin your day and control your mood.

Communicating with difficult people is something most of have to deal with daily. It might be at work, the gym, or at the grocery store. Difficult and annoying people are everywhere, unfortunately. But what happens when these annoying people are your siblings?

This creates a whole different scenario, mainly because you have no choice but to deal with them. Avoiding them at the office or changing the time you go, the gym won’t work when you’re talking about family. Learning some simple mental toughness secrets can be the difference between flipping a lid and keeping your cool with those pesky siblings.

Here are a few things mentally tough people do to maintain their sanity:

Take time to respond, rather than react

Every interaction we have with people leaves us feeling one of five different emotions: happy, sad, angry, fearful, or shameful. The knee jerk reaction, when responding to someone that has an opposing/disrespectful/annoying point of view, is going to be charged with emotion.

If you know you’re in an emotional state of mind, you can take the time to craft a “thoughtful” and logical response. The issue is most of us can’t keep the emotion under control, and instead, we instantly react in a way that does nothing but add fuel to the fire.

Mentally tough people digest what someone says, analyze it with a logical mind, and respond accordingly. They take the time to carefully craft a response as opposed to getting “loose lips” and saying something that only makes things worse.

Stay calm in volatile situations

Mentally tough people are masters at staying calm when thrown into volatile situations. They don’t allow themselves to be overcome with emotion. They keep their emotions in check and maintain a level head in the heat of the moment.

They’ve developed a mental state of preparedness that they can call on anytime things get crazy. In the case of dealing with siblings, they prepare themselves for all the things that may be said before a word is spoken. By playing out these scenarios in their heads, they mentally prepare themselves for what’s to come.

This gives them time to formulate a response that ensures the situation is kept under control, especially situations that can quickly and easily become volatile.

Suspend your disbelief

A long time ago, humans were able to have civil conversations about things they disagreed on. It might have been their favorite sports team, their political beliefs, or maybe how they felt about raising their children. Somewhere along the way, we lost the ability to see (and respect) an opposing point of view.

The topic is irrelevant; fill in the blank. People can no longer remain civil when they disagree. Mentally tough people have mastered the ability to suspend their disbelief when talking with people they may disagree with, especially when those people are their family members.

They remain very open-minded and are always ready to set their feelings aside to try and understand where their loved one is coming from.

Know your triggers

Mentally tough people are fully aware of their triggers, and they’ve thoroughly played out scenarios in their minds about how to respond appropriately when confronted with one. Because they’re very self-aware of their feelings, they’re able to use prior experiences to draw upon when put in a situation that gets them emotional.

They’ve created strategies to control the urge to react emotionally. In turn, they prevent acting in a way that’ll upset a family member that probably had no intention of upsetting them in the first place.

Bianca Asiya Saeed

Bianca Asiya Saeed

Motherhood Empowerment Coach LLC

Dealing with difficult siblings can be more intense than merely tolerating complicated acquaintances or colleagues. Since you share a family with your siblings, you’ll continuously be confronted with your sibling’s behavior, and there is little you can do to escape it if you’d like your family to remain intact (and keep your parents happy).

See their behavior as an opportunity for self-growth

Since you’re constantly reminded of your sibling’s negative behavior, it provides a unique opportunity for growth in these areas: relationship skills, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence. If you choose to see their behavior as an opportunity for you to grow, then each time they act out, you’ll be able to respond instead of reacting to them.

My top piece of advice for dealing with difficult family members, siblings, or otherwise, is to use one of your strengths to confront them. Confrontation is healthy when it is approached from a place of wanting to resolve conflicts.

If you’re a funny guy, try addressing the behavior bluntly with some humor involved in the context of a group. Your sibling may get annoyed, but then you give others the chance to jump in and agree with you, all in a light-hearted manner.

If you tend to be more timid or sensitive, try writing your sibling a heartfelt email and allow some time to pass before seeing them again. If you’re assertive, try intentionally pulling them to the side and let them know that their specific behavior is bothering you, and you’d like to see what you can do to help resolve this conflict.

No matter what personality you have, it’s essential to be honest about how you feel so that you can communicate your issue with them and give them a chance to respond positively. Don’t be passive-aggressive. Don’t pretend like they aren’t doing anything rude or annoying.

Use one of your personality traits and strengths to confront them and give them a chance to change tactfully. If they decide not to change, it’s time to look at setting healthy boundaries with toxic people!

Adina Mahalli

Adina Mahalli

Mental Health Consultant and Relationship Expert | Founder, Enlightened Reality

Common ground

You may come from the same parents, but it doesn’t mean you share the same vibes. Sibling relationships can manifest into many platforms, ranging from best friends to feeling like different species. If you find yourself in the latter scenario, there are ways to handle this relationship to achieve a cordial existence.

Bond over commonalities

It may seem simple, but often we struggle with pinpointing a common ground. You can meet on points as basic as the weather, TV shows, or beauty products you use. Less important than the content is the idea that you’re bonding over something.

Get to the root of it

Most sibling rivalry stems from some jealousy. Whether logical or not, siblings tend to compare attention given, the money granted, or time spent with the otherkin. These deep-rooted feelings often formulate at a primitive age, where it’s ingrained in the person’s psyche.

Don’t try breaking this fixation, as it likely won’t budge

Instead, try to alleviate the jealousy whenever possible. You don’t have to flaunt your birthday gift or special time with your parents on the ‘family chat.’ Share the news with your friend or co-worker- the ‘comparing game’ is a lot less intense.

Pick your battles

Keep in mind, if your interactions with this sibling are infrequent, you must pick your battles. If ultimately you want to have a peaceful correspondence, does it matter whether Mother’s Day brunch will start at 11 or 12? Try to prevent any small, arbitrary disagreements, so when a ‘big deal’ topic comes, your voice will be recognized.

Ignore them

There’s nothing more frustrating than siblings who are annoying, difficult, or downright disrespectful. As difficult as this may be, the best thing to combat the issue is to ignore them. Bratty siblings feed off of attention, whether it be good or bad attention.

So by not addressing them, you won’t add fuel to the fire, and they’ll give up on their quest to annoy you much more quickly than they would if you kept paying attention to them.

Underlying issues

Another way to calm the issue is to figure out what your sibling’s motivations are. Often, behind the annoying behavior, there’s a reason. Perhaps they are merely bored, or maybe they’re craving your attention because they feel that they don’t hang out with you enough.

If you’re able to get to the root of the issue, you can nip this behavior in the bud. For instance, you can help them find a new activity or hobby to get involved with, or you can schedule some time to hang out with them specifically.

Matthew Ferry

Matthew Ferry

Master Life Coach | Spiritual Teacher | Author, Quiet Mind Epic Life

Siblings can be a real thorn in your side because they know exactly how to push your buttons. They have decades of practice and know where your weak spots are.

To be empowered around annoying, difficult, and disrespectful siblings, you must start by admitting that you are the one with the buttons being pressed. Mean, your siblings are just themselves, and you are resisting them.

Your agitation is a response to your resistance, not their behavior. Therefore, if you stop resisting and start appreciating, then you will be at peace no matter what your siblings say or do.

You’re not the ruler of the universe. You don’t get to decide how people behave. Yet, your mind (I call it The Drunk Monkey) will resist because it believes that your way is the right way. Let that go.

What you resist will persist, what you accept will transform

To make your time with family more enjoyable, practice aligning and redirecting the energy. Alignment means putting yourself in their shoes and seeking to understand their point of view.

Ponder these questions: Why do they behave in this way? What is the objective of their behavior? What is the underlying psychology? As you step back and examine your siblings from this perspective, you start to see what their motivations are just like everyone else.

They want love. They want attention. They want to be acknowledged. They want to be better than others to gain favor. They want to be well regarded, smart, capable, and respected. They play the victim to get support or attention or love.

The next step is to be honest about what triggers you. You think you are right. You are afraid of looking bad. You want to be loved. You believe your way is the right way.

You are getting what you put out. If you put out resistance, you will get it back. If you reject your siblings, they will retaliate. If you put out love and acceptance, then you will get that back. You get to decide.

Let this be your mantra next time you are with your siblings. “It’s always me, and it’s never them. It’s my perspective, not their behavior that upsets me. They are doing the best they can. They want to be loved and appreciated, and so am I.”

Shannon Serpette

Shannon Serpette

Chief Editor, Mom Loves Best

I feel as if this question was made for me. I have four brothers and four sisters, ranging in age from 34 to 51. While most of us usually get along just fine, there have been times when we all annoy each other and disrespect each other. And there are always two who seem to be the constant instigators.

Have a game plan

So, I feel highly qualified to offer my advice on this subject. Whenever I know, I’m going to be spending time with the two siblings who most get under my skin. I devise a game plan, so I’m not flying into it blindly.

Here are some of the tactics I use to save my sanity:

Bring a friend

People always seem to behave much better when there is a stranger present.

At family gatherings, mingle whenever possible

Short conversations don’t allow as much opportunity for someone to get under your skin.

Remind yourself of their excellent qualities

I’m a firm believer that everybody has some good traits, even if you have to dig deep to find them. I try to focus on one or two things I like about my sibling to get me through the times I want to slash their tires.

Pretend it’s a movie scene

This one’s strange, but it does help. When I’m feeling especially aggravated, I power through my interactions with my more annoying siblings by envisioning how funny the scene would be if it were turned into a comedy featuring some of my favorite actors.

Although we have had some epic blowouts over the years, so far, we’re all still on speaking terms. That makes my parents happy, and it is much easier for family gatherings, especially around the holidays.

Paige Arnof-Fenn

Paige Arnof-Fenn

Founder and CEO, Mavens and Moguls

It depends on how annoying or disrespectful they are

On the mild end of the spectrum, it can be a simple look, comment, phone call, etc. where they know how you feel, and you make your point. Siblings disagree all the time and usually move on pretty quickly.

In my experience, even if they agree to disagree, based on their shared family history together, they can get through it and move forward. When the situation becomes complicated, and things are said, or accusations are made that are so hurtful that one party perceives the other to be so far off base or lack judgment and integrity, then the break can be permanent, especially once their parents have passed since there is no longer that glue to hold the family together.

It comes down to priorities, respect, and choosing the type of people you want to spend time with and be close to in life. Sharing genes does not mean you have similar values or give someone the right to treat you poorly and expect a free pass in my book.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if my sibling is constantly competing with me?

Dealing with a sibling who is constantly competing with you can be frustrating and hurt your self-esteem. Here are some tips:

• Avoid getting involved in the competition. It’s important to realize that you can’t control your sibling’s behavior but can control how you respond to it.
• Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. It’s important that you communicate your boundaries to your sibling and make sure they respect them.
• Try to understand the reason for their behavior. Sometimes a sibling competes with you because they feel insecure or inferior.
• Celebrate your own accomplishments. It’s important to focus on your accomplishments and not let your sibling’s behavior detract from your success.
• If the competitiveness continues and is unmanageable, seek the help of a trusted family member or therapist.

How can I maintain a positive relationship with my siblings as we get older?

Maintaining a positive relationship with your siblings as you get older can be challenging, but it’s important that you prioritize your relationship and find ways to stay in touch. Below are some suggestions that could help:

Schedule regular catch-ups. It’s important that you make time for each other and share about each other’s lives.
Show an interest in each other’s lives. Ask questions about their hobbies, interests, and career.
Celebrate milestones and accomplishments. Show that you support each other and encourage what you have accomplished.
Avoid holding grudges. Holding on to past conflicts can hurt your relationship. It’s important to forgive and move forward.
Find common ground. Find activities you both enjoy and make time for them regularly.
Prioritize communication. It’s important to communicate openly and honestly with each other and resolve any issues.

What might be the causes of tension between siblings?

Family dynamics are often complex, and sibling relationships are no exception. Causes of tension between siblings often include jealousy, competition for parental attention or affection, personal disagreements, or even unresolved trauma that parents have passed on to their children.

Can counseling help siblings with communication problems?

Counseling provides a safe space where both parties can talk openly about their problems without fear of judgment or punishment; counselors can mediate discussions and provide impartial advice that multiple parties may find useful, ultimately leading to a solution that is best for everyone! Finally, it’s also important that everyone can express their opinion so that no one feels excluded during the process.

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