It can be really frustrating when you have a family member disrespecting you — whether they constantly criticize your choices or undermine your authority.
If you’re struggling to find ways to deal with this situation, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
According to experts, these are ways to deal with disrespectful family members:
Psychotherapist, Licensed Creative Arts Therapist
Family can mean so much to us, especially depending on how you grew up, the narratives you’ve learned about family, and what relation family members have to you.
There may also be expectations around how you interact with the family. With all of that, how do you deal with family members that disrespect you?
Here are some ideas that might help:
Consider what the relationship is for you
I work with many people who feel that they “owe” respect to their parents or other family members.
- You are allowed to challenge that narrative.
- You can take some time to decide if and how you want a relationship with the person disrespecting you.
You may ask yourself:
- What are the things I’m getting from this relationship?
- Is this relationship harmful to me?
- Is this disrespect a pattern?
With a clearer understanding of what kind of relationship you have and want going forward, you can decide what feels like the next best step for you.
Set boundaries; decide what feels best for you
Boundaries can be vital to navigating relationships. They may look like different things, and you get to decide what feels best for you.
For example, you may want to verbalize a clear boundary, “I don’t allow people to talk to me that way,” or you may decide that you need to implement your own boundaries for when you talk to this family member and how long you talk with them.
You can decide what you will and will not allow for yourself. And remember, you don’t owe people an explanation. You can give one if you like, but you don’t have to explain why something is or is not OK for you.
Only you get to decide what feels right for you.
Decide what feels right for you, and follow through with your boundaries
One tricky part of boundaries is ensuring you follow through with consequences if someone disrespects you. Remember, just stating a boundary is not enough.
You get to decide what the consequences are when someone disrespects you.
- Is it hanging up the phone?
- Is it spending less time with that person?
- Is it changing the topic?
If it’s a pattern, and you ultimately decide that the relationship isn’t healthy for you, is it ending the relationship (this can be really hard, and only you can decide if that’s the right choice for you)?
Decide what feels right for you, and follow through with your boundaries.
Give yourself compassion
It can be so hurtful when a family member disrespects you. We are wired to want a relationship, and family is often where we have our first experiences of love.
Offer yourself some kindness if you feel hurt by your family member. And be gentle with yourself if you start implementing new boundaries and shifting relationship dynamics.
Related: How To Stop Beating Yourself Up
This can be really hard work. You’re not alone if this doesn’t come easily. It’s OK to ask for support if you need it, from trusted friends or a therapist if you have the resources.
It can also help to remember that the more you practice it, you may find you feel more comfortable in yourself and more solid in your relationships.
Kara Nassour, LPC, NCC
Licensed Professional Counselor, Shaded Bough Counseling
Evaluate the situation from different angles
- Is this someone you’re close to or a more distant relationship?
- Do you want to stay on good terms with them, or is it not that important?
- Did your relative intend to disrespect you, or was it unintentional?
By looking at the situation from different angles, you can better decide how to respond.
Weigh your options and consider which compromises you’re willing to make for them
This could mean:
- speaking up for yourself,
- ending the conversation,
- ignoring their disrespect,
- talking it out in private later, or something else entirely.
Remember that you almost never have to respond immediately but can usually wait and bring it up later when tempers have cooled.
Consider which values and relationships are most important to you and which compromises (if any) you’re willing to make for them.
Consider working it out; let them know how you feel
Most arguments can be resolved if people on both sides are willing to listen to each other respectfully.
Is your disrespectful family member someone who might listen if you told them, “I felt hurt by what you did?” If so, try taking them aside and letting them know how you feel.
This can feel strange if it’s not normal in your family, and sometimes people don’t know how to respond to it. But it can work if you are both willing to get through the awkwardness and try to reconnect.
Identify your boundaries and stick to them
For family members who aren’t willing to listen or change their behavior, you’ll have to decide your own limits.
- How much time are you willing to spend with them?
- What topics will you not discuss?
- What will make you walk away early or hang up the phone?
- What requests will you say “No” to?
Once you know your limits, try to stick to them, even if it feels uncomfortable. Setting limits with people is often necessary in order to make relationships last.
Speaker | Contributing Author | Transformation Coach, One Bold MF
The holidays are full of magic and wonder. For most of you, the holidays are usually a time of joy and connection. For some of you, it’s the complete opposite.
You dread the upcoming family gathering because you know Aunt Carol will shame you for how you live your life, or Uncle Fred will make fun of your dreams in front of the whole family.
Family is the one thing we are gifted without choice. We don’t get to choose our family, but we do get to decide how we interact with our family. You are not alone if you are apprehensive about family gatherings because one of your family members disrespects you.
I have personally felt the angst at family gatherings growing up and as an adult. While I had no say in attending family functions as a child, I have total autonomy over my decisions as an adult.
Here are some of the things I have used to navigate complicated family situations as an adult:
Don’t go anywhere that drains your energy
First of all, I don’t go anywhere that drains me energetically. If you don’t want to be around a family member who constantly disrespects you, don’t attend the family function.
I choose me and my sanity without apology. This sounds drastic, but I have found that time with the family I love is best experienced outside the chaos of the holidays. There are no distractions, and I love the intimate one-on-one connection.
If you must attend a gathering, avoid the family member if you can
If you must attend, prepare yourself before you go. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Avoid the family member if you can. If you feel attacked, you can confront them or walk away. Remember, you are in control. Let’s break these down even further.
If you can, avoid the family member altogether. This is the path of least resistance if you don’t feel comfortable with confrontation. You have the right to walk away as well.
Pull that nagging family member to a private place if you want to confront them
If you want to confront that nagging family member:
- Get them alone.
- Pull them to a private place and explain what they said and how it made you feel.
- Keep it simple and be very direct.
These are the kind of people who will never take responsibility.
- Some family members don’t realize they are being disrespectful.
- Perhaps they didn’t know they hurt your feelings.
- Some family members will be defensive.
As a result, they may feel attacked and be more aggressive. Either way, you will feel empowered by taking a stand for yourself.
There is no right or wrong way to approach a disrespectful family member.
Start with the end in mind.
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What would be the best outcome for you?
Remember, you can’t control anyone else or their behavior. Do what’s right for you and honor yourself first in these situations.
Anna Marchenko, LMHC, M.A., Ed.M
Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Principal Therapist, Miami Hypnosis and Therapy
Dealing with disrespectful family can feel like an overwhelming process, but it does not have to be. While it can take time, establishing clear boundaries is key.
Understand your limits; identify what triggers the feelings of disrespect
First, it’s important to understand your limits. Identify what triggers the feelings of disrespect inside of yourself, then identify what those triggers are for the family member in question.
Avoid those triggers when you’re at gatherings with this person, drawing a boundary in the proverbial sand to tell yourself not to tread into conversations or situations that involve those triggers for either of you.
Communicate: It is within your power to say so or to even say no
Second, communicate. If someone has made you uncomfortable, it is within your power to say so or to even say no.
Standing up for yourself is hard, but knowing when to say no, be honest, and potentially walk away is vital to letting your family know you won’t stand for their behavior.
Remember, it may not always be about you
Third, remember it ultimately may not always be about you. Many people who disrespect others have something going on in their own lives that makes them more likely to lash out or manipulate others into dramatic confrontations.
Often, this is a projection tactic: they don’t want to do the inner work themselves, so they may seek to project their frustration or anger on someone else.
Finally, if this family member is one that you’d like to try to mend the connection with, the path to a more balanced relationship could seem a little rocky.
Work with a counselor or therapist trained in family counseling
Consider working with a counselor or therapist trained in family counseling that can help you all explore and unpack the root causes of your issues so that you can reframe behavior and find a more balanced way of living with one another.
Intentional Living Coach, Upcycled Adulting LLC
Dealing with family members that disrespect you can be incredibly painful and challenging. Family events and activities should be something you can look forward to and enjoy.
Understanding how to navigate situations where you feel disrespected confidently can increase confidence and reduce feelings of dread and anxiety.
Follow these three simple steps next time you experience disrespect:
Define “disrespect” — they may not be aware that they are being disrespectful
When it comes to family, it can be easy to overlook and under-communicate our boundaries. This can lead to misunderstandings and disrespect.
If you don’t clarify your boundaries, your family may not be aware that they are being disrespectful, which makes it very unlikely that they will change their behavior.
In addition, you may find yourself filled with self-doubt, wondering if you’re overreacting and rationalizing their behavior. Anytime you experience disrespect, your first step is to state (or restate) your boundary.
Be concise and specific when communicating your boundaries; don’t beat around the bush
When initially communicating your boundaries, it’s important to be as concise and specific as possible. Don’t beat around the bush or give analogies; simply get to the point and clearly state your boundary and preference.
This way, you reduce the chance of misunderstanding or negotiating.
Be firm in clarifying your boundary; avoid over-explaining
When you need to clarify your boundary because you have been disrespected, it’s important to be firm.
Avoid the temptation to communicate in ways that appear:
- to be seeking validation,
- over-explaining, or
- getting permission.
Other people don’t have to understand your boundaries, validate them, or agree with them to respect them. When you engage in conversation that opens the door for this, you are far more likely to find quite the opposite.
Enforce the boundary; you are creating guidelines about how you will tolerate being treated
People often mistake believing that boundaries are meant for others and intended to change their behavior. However, this is untrue. Your boundaries are for you.
You are creating guidelines about how you will tolerate being treated and letting others know what you find to be inappropriate and disrespectful.
They might not be willing to accept your boundaries or to behave in a more respectful manner. If this happens, you will need to honor yourself and enforce your boundaries.
Correct and redirect to address disrespect and enforce boundaries
Correction and redirection can be a very impactful way of addressing disrespect and enforcing boundaries, especially in communication. Simply stating, “It’s disrespectful to continue down this path so let’s change the subject” (or change the action).
Calling out disrespect directly and offering an alternative can stop it in its tracks.
Take a break from the situation
Walking away from a situation that you find disrespectful can be extremely helpful. It’s important that we create space between ourselves and those who are violating our boundaries.
If disrespectful behavior is regularly occurring or is continuing, it may be best to leave the situation altogether.
Again, you can’t change the behavior of others, but you can remove yourself and your family from a situation that feels emotionally unsafe, violates your boundaries, or is disrespectful.
Communicate a consequence in a matter-of-fact tone
Informing others of what will happen if they continue to disrespect you or violate your boundaries can be very effective. However, you must be consistent and follow through.
When communicating a consequence, keep the emotion out and deliver this information in a matter-of-fact tone.
Be mindful that you aren’t making a threat; you are simply giving information so the other person can make an educated choice about whether they want to continue being disrespectful.
You can communicate a consequence in the moment or at a later time.
Keep your distance from disrespectful family members
If family members continue to disrespect you, it might be time to put some distance in the relationship. Just because you’re family doesn’t mean that you are obligated to attend events.
Sometimes coming to terms with the possibility that your family isn’t safe or capable of honoring your boundaries can be difficult.
But not doing so and continuing to put yourself in situations where you are diminished or disrespected is the ultimate betrayal because it would require you to disrespect yourself, which should never be an option.
Katie Moore, PsyD
Licensed Psychologist, Affirming Psychological Services
Set a healthy and appropriate boundary
The best thing you can do for yourself when dealing with disrespectful family members is to set clear boundaries as early as possible.
Boundaries are not rules for the behavior of others. It’s really just communicating your rules for yourself with others.
For example, you wouldn’t say:
“You can’t treat me like that.”
Instead, if you’re setting a healthy and appropriate boundary, you might say:
“If you treat me like that, I will be going home and will not be staying for dinner.”
We can’t control the behavior of others; we can only control our own behavior.
Setting this boundary never tells the person that they cannot behave in the way they were behaving; it only tells them that if they choose that behavior, we will also choose our own protective behavior.
Follow through with the boundary
The caveat is that you actually have to follow through with the boundary. So, the boundary needs to be something that you are capable and willing to follow through with.
For example, if you live with family members because of your own financial difficulties, you likely can’t follow through with a boundary of:
“If you keep disrespecting my partner, I will move out.”
Instead, in this circumstance, you might be able to choose something like:
“If you continue to disrespect my partner, I will not be eating dinner with the family.”
You also, of course, would need to listen to any reasonable boundaries that others have as well (but this does not mean that you have to follow unreasonable rules).
If you do not follow through with the boundary, the people you set the boundary with may believe that your boundary isn’t crucial.
The next time you try to set a boundary, they are less likely to take you seriously, so make sure that you do set boundaries that you are prepared to follow through with.
Jose Ramirez, LMHC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, The Psychology Group
When people feel disrespected, the go-to response is often to get defensive. This usually makes things worse and puts an even bigger strain on relationships. Here are some alternative ways to deal with family members that disrespect you.
Maintain and reinforce boundaries
By setting good boundaries, you are basically teaching the person what is acceptable in how they treat you.
Maintaining and reinforcing boundaries is important; remember, people don’t like limits, so a good amount of reinforcement is necessary. It can be exhausting, but if done right, it is so effective and can save the relationship.
Boundaries can look like limiting:
- the amount of time spent with family or
- the types of conversations you take part in.
Take care of yourself to safeguard your mental health
Ever feel drained after spending time with family? If so, make sure you’re taking care of yourself and engaging in self-care to safeguard your mental health.
Engage in pleasurable and restorative activities.
- Take an extra-long bath,
- get a message,
- spend time with your dogs, or
- go for a mental health walk.
Whatever it is, just make sure that the focus is on recharging your battery.
Debriefing with a trusted friend or partner is also very helpful, and it’s definitely considered self-care as you use your social support to help you process.
Don’t engage with them at all; it may be extreme, but it is necessary
If you’ve tried everything and your family continues to disrespect you, then perhaps it’s time to not engage with them at all. I know this sounds extreme, but sometimes this type of response is necessary.
If time and again the result is always the same, an extreme measure like this might be most effective. This can be very difficult, but it can also be healing for the disrespected party.
Be careful not to use this strategy from the start, as it can be a form of avoidance. This strategy should be thought of as a last-ditch effort.
Some time away can help reevaluate:
- whether or not this relationship is worth salvaging or
- if it’s better to try to learn to live without that person.
Step back and do a self-assessment
When disrespect happens in a family, it’s wise to step back and look at the source and the patterns.
While each person must be responsible for their own behavior, it’s good also to do some reflection.
Possible questions might be:
- Am I doing or saying something harmful that is causing the person to react?
- Is the person under extra stress from something now?
- Are there actions I can take to build a greater connection between us?
- Was the person taught poor behavior by a parent, and they might be open to practicing new behavior now?
- Are they resentful of me because of something I did and didn’t clean up?
The quality of compassion may assist you in stepping into the world of the person showing disrespect to you.
Turn the situation around: Taking the high road is usually best
If you are on the receiving end of disrespect from a family member, you have choices for how to respond, and taking the high road is usually best.
If you reply with disrespect, the situation will likely escalate rather than resolve.
- You can inquire about what is happening and why to determine if there is a misunderstanding.
- One response choice is to express that the communication wasn’t appreciated and request that the person try again.
- You can choose to apply tolerance and ignore the communication, especially if it’s unusual.
Set a boundary when disrespect is chronic
If the disrespectful communications are chronic, and a conversation to establish better interactions is unsuccessful, then a boundary may have to be set, and less contact will happen.
The ideal in family relationships is harmony and unity. However, peaceful unity can sometimes only happen from a distance.
Colleen Wenner-Foy, MA. LCMHC-S, LPC, MCAP
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Clinical Director, New Heights Counseling and Consulting LLC
Family members who disrespect you, say it’s not so! Sadly, the fact is, for many homes, this is a reality.
We all have family members who are disrespectful of us, our time, or our opinions.
To think, those who should be closest to you can be the most unkind. It doesn’t matter if they’re your parents, siblings, cousins, friends, or even your spouse. The truth is, dealing with family members who disrespect you isn’t easy.
It can be difficult to deal with when they:
- talk about you behind your back,
- make jokes about you, or
- act rudely towards you.
These can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions.
However, here are a few actions to address the toxicity of being disrespected by your loved ones to keep your sanity intact:
Don’t take it personally; maybe they don’t intend to be hurtful
Toxic family members often say things about others behind their backs, even when they don’t intend for them to be hurtful. They might even try to convince you that you’re imagining things.
It sometimes seems like they’re trying to deliberately hurt you, but it could really be because they don’t understand what’s making you so angry.
Be honest; let them know they did something wrong and what you expect them to do
You can only get through a situation with a toxic relative if you’re open and honest with them.
You might think it would be easier to simply ignore what your family members are telling you, but it will just get worse over time. Let them know how you feel, why they did something wrong, and what you want them to do differently next time.
Letting them know what you expect will:
- allow them to work with you to create a solution, or better yet,
- make them realize their comments/actions were inappropriate and stop doing it.
Focus on solutions that benefit both of you
You shouldn’t let a toxic relative control the way you live your life. Instead, you need to focus on creating solutions that benefit both of you.
- If you want to spend more time together, you can plan the activities that have predetermined mutually agreed details that allow you to connect with each other, or
- Maybe you just want to avoid conflict altogether and find ways to remain respectful but set healthy boundaries.
Take responsibility for what you say and do
If you want to change your relationship with a toxic relative, you’ll need to start taking ownership of what you say and do, being sure not to fan the flame of toxicity.
This means owning up to any mistakes you’ve made, as well as apologizing for anything you’ve said or done that has caused harm.
Nothing is gained if you simply blame yourself; instead, focus on changing your behavior.
If you feel like you’re constantly getting blamed for something, then you may need to seek:
- a mediator,
- a third party to help, like a trusted friend, family member, pastor, or
- possibly a professional mental health counselor.
Stay positive to maintain your own sanity
It can be difficult to remain positive when you’re around family members who are negative. But staying positive is an important part of maintaining your own sanity.
When you’re around people who are toxic, it can be tempting to become:
- frustrated, or
Nevertheless, these negative feelings will only create problems for you. It’s best to keep things in perspective and not dwell on negative aspects of life; focus on the good things you share with family members.
Founding Partner, The Snapka Law Firm
Whether we like it or not, difficult people are everywhere. You will almost certainly encounter a difficult individual in your life at some point and will need to figure out how to cope with them. If being around them makes you feel bad, it would be simple to question why you should continue.
But it’s not quite that simple. Sometimes we simply find ourselves in circumstances over which we have little control.
Why family relationships are vital
From birth, your family is accountable for your needs, protection, and education.
- Your family will care for you till you’re an adult.
- Your family should accept you without judgment.
But you can strengthen familial relationships, though. One shouldn’t be blamed. Family ties are vital. Strengthen family relationships.
You can always relocate; uncomfortable circumstances can be avoided
It can be challenging to handle a relative’s disrespect. Family bonds are vital, though. You can always relocate if your relationship with a non-family member is strained. Uncomfortable circumstances can be avoided.
Mental harm results from tolerating toxic behavior. For your peace of mind and happiness, you must learn how to deal with controlling family members.
How to deal with a rude family member are as follows:
Refrain from berating or correcting the misbehaving family member
Accept people’s flaws and everything if you want to be accepted for who you are. Conflict results from blaming and reshaping the other party. Pointing fingers or pressuring someone to change won’t help, even if you’re right. Most likely, you’ll fail.
Keep on topic and calm down
Keep your composure. Calm down. When all seems lost, get out of there and quit talking.
Avoid arguing over anything
Everyone has to agree. Never go too far. Establish boundaries inside the family. Some topics are off-limits.
Handle them honestly
Circular thinking is pointless. It is unsuccessful. Keep your mind off of running or fighting. Regard their behavior, be forthright and honest. Avoid defamation and assigning blame.
Try not to get offended
Outbursts or unkind behavior may be brought on by misplaced expectations or a hazy sense of right and wrong. It’s difficult not to take responsibility or blame personally. When you notice this, halt your chat. Avoid skewing the conversation.
Guidelines for improving your family ties
Healthy family relationships are essential for mental health and wellbeing. You can mend broken family relations and forge new ones.
Here are a few ideas:
- Open conversation helps make family ties stronger. It involves talking about your emotions and listening to other people
- Put family first. Make sure you share meals every day.
- Family gatherings and excursions promote cooperation.
- Maintain family ties. Conflicts happen even in loving households. Resolving disputes is important.
- You can sometimes agree to disagree.
- By concentrating on the problems, strong families may resolve their conflicts.
Family health is important. Your family may be your closest allies, champions, and protectors.
Accepting a middle ground does not automatically make the other party right. This merely indicates that you place your relationship above all else.
Most family members have known you since you were a child, so it’s challenging. They remember you as a child, and some think they can still treat you the same.
Even if you’ve changed as an adult, some people cannot shake their old impression of you. They think they know what reactions to expect from you.
They’ve pigeonholed you as a certain type. People like what’s familiar and do not like changing their opinions of people. Especially if they think they know you well already.
You may not even realize someone is disrespectful right away. They may not do it all the time. They may only do it when you aren’t responding the way they want you to.
They may think they’ll get their way if they bully you into doing what they want.
Be 100% decisive the first time; do not argue back
Once you give in once to their intimidation, they’ll keep using this tactic on you.
You can solve this by being 100% decisive the first time. That way, you can stand your ground confidently. They’ll soon realize bullying you doesn’t work.
When they start to intimidate you and try to change your mind, don’t entertain it. State your decision again. Then walk away or hang up if they can’t respect it.
Do not argue back. These types enjoy provoking reactions from people. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Stop sharing your accomplishments with these people; don’t listen to their negativity
Some people may be jealous of you or just extremely negative. They don’t like to see you do better than them. If they don’t want to see you succeed, or if they want to make you feel bad, they’ll put you down.
Stop sharing your accomplishments with these people. Spend less time around them. These negative traits and attitudes will wear off on you. If you hang around them and listen to their harsh words, you’ll start to believe them.
The best way to handle disrespect is to shine brightly and ignore their words
Toxic people thrive on being able to get a rise out of you. Don’t let them get to you. Don’t stoop down to their level.
Acting hurt will just egg them on. Go about your business as if they just said, “the sky is blue.” Walk away or simply say, “I disagree.” Yelling matches are overrated, and the toxic person will win and make you look like the idiot anyway.
Don’t waste your time and energy on those who aren’t worth it. There are many other people who are kinder. Connect with them instead.
Good people take notice. Keep shining brightly and doing your thing. You’ll attract better people.
Chances are, other family members may notice their toxicity. These people may leave and come to your camp. If they don’t, they are probably not worth your time either.
There’s a good chance those indoctrinated by the toxic person will report much of what you say and do back to the toxic person. So it’s probably not worth keeping these people in your camp.
This is common within families where Narcissistic Personality Disorder is present. Their ideas of love and normal conversation are so twisted, that many family members will never realize how disrespectful they treat others.
You can’t change a person’s character if they’re generally disrespectful and negative to everyone
If a person is generally disrespectful and negative to everyone, don’t expect them to change. Some people are just toxic. They see nothing wrong with their ways.
Don’t feel down or go too far out of your way to try to change someone. It can be maddening. Especially if they agree to change, but they end up not following through.
Is blood thicker than mud?
Never believe that you must communicate regularly and hang around people just because you’re related. People may get mad at you for not doing what you used to. But no one is entitled to verbally abuse you.
Sometimes when you distance yourself, people realize they did wrong.
- They may come back acting better or asking what they did wrong.
- Explain it simply and calmly.
- See how they react.
If they apologize or treat you better, then maybe the relationship is salvageable after all.
- Just take it day by day, and be ready to distance yourself again if they start to act up again.
- If you want to know more, read books about communication styles and possibly narcissistic family systems if you believe that may apply to your family.
- If it’s your partner or kids who disrespect you, reading specialized books on those topics may help.
- Family therapy may also be very helpful if you can get everyone onboard.
Gabrielle Montana, MS LPC SAC-IT
Licensed Professional Counselor, Fortitude Counseling Services LLC
Be curious about what purpose they’re serving
Be curious about what purpose your family member’s behavior is serving. What personal need are they trying to meet at the expense of your regard?
Whatever answer you come up with, the consistent theme is that it’s not about you. Their disrespect is a direct reflection of their inability to navigate relationships and assert their needs and expectations in a healthy manner.
That’s not something within your control. So, don’t personalize it.
Do assertive communication
Be clear with your family member that their behavior is disrespectful and that your feelings are not being considered.
This can be used as a guideline for having that conversation:
“I feel [emotion experienced in response to disrespect] when you say/do [disrespectful behavior]. I value our time together and want it to be a fun experience for both of us. I will feel more comfortable if those comments/behaviors don’t happen.”
Take the opportunity to establish boundaries to maintain authentic relationships
Having compassion and understanding for why a person behaves the way they do does not mean we must tolerate it.
Experiencing disrespect is an opportunity to establish boundaries. Setting Boundaries can be challenging, and they are how we maintain authentic relationships while engaging in self-love and respect.
Be clear with your family member about the consequences of their behavior.
This might include:
- limiting time spent with them, or
- cutting off the relationship altogether.
Sharing blood with someone does not give them entitlement to your time, and it’s not an excuse to abandon emotional regard.
Jocelyn Hamsher, LPC, CSAT
Licensed Professional Counselor, Courageous Living AZ
Confront the disrespect and share preferences
You can confront the disrespect and share preferences for moving forward.
“I am not okay with yelling. In the future, please refrain from yelling when interacting with me.”
Just know when sharing preferences, your family may choose not to change, and you need to decide if you are okay with that.
Set boundaries and take action
If you are unwilling to accept the disrespect moving forward, you can set boundaries. The difference between a preference and a boundary is that with boundaries, you take action.
Using the example above, a boundary may look like:
“I am not okay with yelling. If it continues, I will leave the room (hang up the phone, etc.).”
This involves taking action when the disrespect happens.
In some cases, that may also mean setting boundaries for the frequency of interactions with disrespectful family members. This is challenging, especially when you love the family member.
However, we teach others how to treat us by what we do and do not tolerate in our interactions.
Engage in self-talk around not letting the disrespect impact you
Ignore the disrespect. If you are in a situation where you feel like you don’t have a lot of options for standing up to the dysfunction, then you can learn ways to not let their disrespect bother you.
- setting internal boundaries,
- engaging in self-talk around not letting the disrespect impact you, and
- emotionally taking a step back, so you are not as invested in the relationship.
No matter what you choose, make sure your choice is coming from a place of empowerment, not from a place of feeling like a victim of your family’s disrespect.
Dealing with big mouths and drama makes you feel trapped in a soap opera! But guess what, there are ways to stop the madness and start enjoying your family before it’s too late.
Family is important, but it can sometimes be challenging to deal with. Sometimes they are so annoying that you want to leave them.
But is that the right thing to do?
Here are some tips on dealing with family members who disrespect you and how to avoid the situation getting worse.
Understand if your family member is intentionally hurting your feelings or it’s just a joke
There are many reasons why a family member may intentionally hurt your feelings or even make hurtful jokes. It may be because they are nervous or anxious, they may be insecure and feel the need to put others down, or they may be abusive and mean to everyone.
Solution: Keep it simple; don’t bring up other issues
Handle family members that disrespect you by applying two methods:
- Talk it out with them in a calm manner, expressing how their behavior makes you feel.
- Please keep it simple, don’t bring up other issues you have with them.
Walk away at the first sign of disrespect
Another option is to walk away at the first sign of disrespect.
Sometimes family members say things that hurt or make you feel like you are not good enough for people to respect you. This causes you pain and makes you feel like you should not take their opinions as seriously as you should.
Solution: Stay calm and understand that the opinions of these people do not matter
The problem is those family members who disrespect you intend on doing so. You have to stay calm and understand that the opinions of these people do not matter and that you need to ignore them.
How to deal with it if it’s a recurring situation
It’s been a problem for a while, and you’ve tried talking to them.
- You’ve tried being patient and understanding.
- You’ve tried doing things their way, and now you’re ready to take action.
Solution: Communicate your feelings in a way that expresses your point of view
It’s time to face them. Find out how to communicate your feelings in a way that expresses your point of view. You might not get the outcome you want immediately, but at least you’ll know you gave it your best shot.
Ari Shaffer, MSE
Career and Parenting Coach | Psychotherapist | Author, Books by Ari
Set a firm boundary you feel comfortable enforcing
If you feel disrespected but safe discussing your concerns with your family member, you might consider using the non-violent communication model by Marshall Rosenberg.
- Explain what you’re observing,
- share what you’re feeling,
- identify your needs, and
- request what you’d like.
If it continues, then it might be time for a firm boundary.
Whether it is a family member, a boss, a partner, or a friend, the answer is the same. But drawing a boundary is the easy part. The hard part comes later when you need to enforce it.
It’s challenging because the disrespectful person wants you to return to how you were.
- throw a fit,
- become enraged,
- ignore you, or
- try to charm you into compliance.
One of the most challenging life lessons is that we have absolutely no control over what others do. But generally, we do get to decide what we’ll put up with and what we will do to take care of ourselves.
Setting a boundary you feel comfortable enforcing is a good way to start.
I may not feel comfortable telling someone I won’t attend an event. But I can say that I’ll attend for an hour and leave early if I feel uncomfortable.
That’s a boundary. Setting it is:
- following through,
- leaving at the one-hour mark,
- paying attention to how my body feels in that situation, and
- leaving if I do feel uncomfortable.
Often people will make a boundary contingent on someone else’s behavior, but that puts the ball in their court again. You may feel stuck until they “do something disrespectful” and then wind up having to get into a big thing about it later.
Let them know clearly what you are willing to do
Sometimes it feels easier to just give in, but you have the right to set a limit if you feel disrespected. Calmly, clearly, and with respect for yourself and the other, let them know what you are willing to do and what you will not do. Then follow through.
Creative Strategist | Coach | Executive director, Kindred Place
It can be a challenge to cope with hurtful or disrespectful behavior from family members, whatever our families look like.
From our experience at the company, both within our own families and from client experiences, we know intimately that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and what is effective in some family situations will not be in others.
Here are a few points of guidance that might help:
Be clear about the boundaries you need
Yes, boundaries apply to family, too. Many issues within families do arise here: Because the relationship is one with a child or grandchild, an aunt, uncle, cousin, and so on, families with a poor understanding of boundaries may feel they are allowed or entitled to do and say things that would otherwise be inappropriate.
Even if for your own sanity, it’s important to remember that you are allowed to be clear about the boundaries you need – and pull away when they’re not being respected.
Avoid “diagnosing” a family member
Avoid “diagnosing” a family member. It’s tempting when someone says or does something that frustrates or harms us. But it usually makes the situation worse – and sometimes, your “diagnosis” can slip out in an argument or tense moment.
Get individual therapy to regain perspective
Get therapy – even if it’s individual. Family therapy may be an option in some cases. But don’t feel pressured to choose this if it feels unsafe or triggering.
Often, if the family member(s) in question don’t see a need to change their behaviors, the problem can feel like it’s yours. Individual therapy can help you repair any damages and regain perspective.
Never be afraid to reach out. And if your first therapist doesn’t seem to understand your family difficulties, find someone who does.
Relationship Therapist | Adjunct Professor of Counseling Psychology, Columbia University
Be specific: Explain that they’re being disrespectful and ask them to make changes
If you have family members who disrespect you, let them know you want to be treated better. Give specific details and explain what they do that you find disrespectful. Then ask them to make specific changes — give examples of what could have been better in a particular instance.
Provide positive reinforcement after if they follow through
When they follow through on those changes, positively reinforce them by saying:
“Thank you. That felt respectful,” or
“I like the way you just asked me that.”
Change your expectations for how that person acts
If you aren’t able to shape their behavior, recognize that what’s happening is the person you are dealing with is choosing to prioritize themself and what they feel like doing over your feelings and stated preferences.
There may be many reasons for this, including but not limited to the possibility that:
- the person is not doing well themselves due to factors you may or may not know about, or
- they may have a personality disorder or other mental health disorder.
No matter the etiology of their behavior, so as to not suffer any longer when this happens, change your expectations for how that person behaves towards you to be at the level you are currently experiencing.
Expect very little from them and consider them challenged in some way.
You could think:
“Oh, that’s my relative who has different rules for how to treat people, unfortunately. I wish it wasn’t this way. Luckily, I have so-and-so in my life who treats me respectfully. I will choose to focus on this and not get myself down.”
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Communicate your boundaries by being clear, firm, and compassionate
Dealing with family members that disrespect you can be both challenging and painful to navigate. That is why set boundaries with loved ones if you are put in this position.
The first step of setting boundaries is to identify what boundaries you hope to set and why they are important to you. From there, it’s crucial to communicate your boundaries by being clear, firm, and compassionate towards yourself and your family member.
I find it helpful to convey boundaries by using “I feel” statements to express your feelings in a way that hopefully decreases defensiveness and increases empathy.
All the while, it is essential to be direct because amorphous boundaries are hard to understand and respect.
Maintain almost a neutral and nonjudgmental stance in expressing boundaries
Lastly, I find it helpful to maintain almost a neutral and nonjudgmental stance in expressing boundaries.
We tend to be less effective in communicating boundaries when we let anger or other strong emotions influence our means of communication. It’s not to say you aren’t entitled to your feelings because you absolutely are.
I recommend waiting until you have cooled off emotionally before setting boundaries with loved ones.
At the end of the day, our goal is to be effective so that our needs are met, and sometimes it’s hard to do so when we ourselves have not fully processed our emotions and reasons for needing boundaries in the first place.
Advancement Strategist Consultant | Policy Analyst
Nothing triggers the nervous system quite like the feeling of being disrespected by a family member.
Your heart starts pounding, and your brain starts generating questions:
- “What did they mean by that?” or
- “How, or even should I respond?”
Familiar wounds open up, and you start to move back in time. The desire to fight back is emerging; you need a plan.
Bring your heart online — by connecting to your joy.
If you are able to excuse yourself:
- splash some cold water on your face,
- place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your heart,
- smile for 60 seconds until you are able to activate feelings of joy and peace in your body.
Decide to invite peace; assume that the disrespect was unintentional
If you are unable to walk away, take three deep breaths, feel your toes, and smile to open into your heart space. Decide to invite peace by considering that it’s usually a good idea to assume that the disrespect was unintentional.
This doesn’t mean that the hurt isn’t real — it simply allows the intention of peace to enter the wound. When you find yourself in conflict with a family member, something is being triggered in you — it is likely unleashing a discomfort in you because you have experienced something like this before.
If you focus in a way that contributes to a healthier experience, you will cultivate not only peace but more joy.
Deliver a message of love instead of getting into who said what to whom
Deliver a message of love instead of getting into who said what to whom; it’s optimal to decide that the underlying message you want to deliver is love.
Recently, I found myself in a challenging situation with my father-in-law. I first went for a walk (practicing the tactics stated above). When I returned, I first stated that I loved him and then said that I felt that he did not respect me.
When he asked what he had said and done, I said:
“I didn’t want to get into the particulars because it was, in fact, a general feeling that I felt had been building.”
He immediately understood. We both apologized.
Things will not always move forward like this. There are other family members and relationships who you may decide that you need to detach with love from in order to be able to bring more joy to yourself and others, which brings us to the next point.
Observe your focus when interacting with family members. If you frequently find yourself pouring peace into your family dynamic, be careful to make this your defining role — it will ultimately leave you drained.
One way to know if this is the case is to start noticing where you find yourself within the family circle of conflict.
From this day forward, focus on cultivating more joy for yourself by interacting more with those who live in a state of peace and joy and not with those who contribute to a pattern of anxiety.
Let the negative emotions pass through you
Allow more joy — as the world’s problems seem to grow exponentially, so are the solutions. Your impact is bigger than you think. Let the negative emotions pass through you, and you will notice that the challenges and people that trigger you will also pass. Invite peace whenever possible.
Seek professional help in developing coping skills
If the problem persists, seek professional help in developing coping skills. Sessions with a licensed therapist can help you discover the tools to face challenging situations.
Catherine vanVonno, Ph.D
President and CEO, 20four7VA
Family members can often be the people who are the hardest to get along with. Whether it’s an overbearing parent, a difficult sibling, or a demanding relative, it can be tough to deal with someone who doesn’t show you the respect you deserve.
The good news is that you don’t have to bear all the negativity they offer.
However, there are times when you will inevitably have to deal with some level of disrespect from them.
If you’re struggling to cope with a disrespectful family member, there are a few things that you can do:
Talk to them about their behavior
If a family member is disrespecting you, the first thing that you should do is talk to them about it. If they’re unaware of how their words or actions are affecting you, they may not realize that they’re being disrespectful. This conversation can be difficult, but it’s the most direct way to address the issue.
Set boundaries with them; be clear about what you won’t tolerate from them
If you find that a family member is consistently crossing your boundaries, it’s important to set some firm limits with them. This may mean telling them you don’t want to discuss certain topics or setting a time limit for visits. It’s also important to be clear about what you will and won’t tolerate from them.
Avoid them if necessary; distance yourself from them
In some cases, the best way to deal with a disrespectful family member is to avoid them. If their behavior is too hurtful or toxic, you may need to distance yourself from them. This doesn’t mean that you have to cut them out of your life completely, but it may mean limiting your interactions with them.
Seek support from other family members or friends
It’s important to seek support from other people in your life. This could be another supportive family member, a close friend, or even an acquaintance who understands what you’re going through. Emotional support during these times can be vital.
Senior Editor, Tandem
An old saying goes, “Blood is thicker than water.” But lots of old sayings and beliefs have been disproven. There was, “The customer is always right,” and from Grant Cardone, “There are 168 hours in a week. You should be working most of them.”
Though these sayings might have been true when they were said, that doesn’t mean they are accurate today. The statement about blood and water is no different.
If you have relatives that don’t treat you with respect, you might want to know how to deal with family members that disrespect you.
Remember that you “can” choose your family
Some people are born into great families that are respectful and that they love and adore. Others are not so lucky.
So you aren’t content with the family your genes gave you? In that case, you can create an extended family with no blood relation.
Do you recall that close family friend your mom had you refer to as Aunt Sandy? She wasn’t related by blood or marriage, yet you still called her lovingly by a familial name. You can choose to do the same with your friends.
Remember that you do “not” have to put up with being put down
If someone is disrespecting you, even if they are related to you, that doesn’t mean that you need to accept this behavior.
Walk away, or otherwise remove yourself from the situation.
Though you might make some other family members upset in the process, it’s important to put yourself first at times. If you are being disrespected, this would definitely be one of those times.
Remember that “you” are worth it
Though some sayings no longer hold true, others seem to hold the test of time.
L’Oreal Paris’s tagline is “Because you’re worth it.” Heed that as advice. You are worth it. You don’t need to be disrespected. You don’t need to be made to feel less-than. You are worth it.
It may seem difficult but get out of the situation
Nobody is perfect, not even our families. If you are being disrespected, get out of the situation. Though it may seem difficult at the time, you may realize that it’s the best step you could take.
Founder and CEO, Finding Favourites
It is important to remember that family members are often the ones who are closest to us and who we care about the most. This means that when they disrespect us, it can hurt more than if someone else did.
However, there are some things that you can do in order to deal with this situation.
Understand why they disrespect you
First, it is important to understand why they disrespect you. This can be difficult, but it’s important to try and communicate openly and honestly about how their words or actions are affecting you.
Be clear about what is not acceptable in terms of how they speak to or treat you
It may even be appropriate to set boundaries with these family members — this means being clear about what is and is not acceptable in terms of how they speak to or treat you.
When your family respects you, it creates positive reinforcement within the family unit, leading to more cooperation and positive interactions. However, when a family member disrespects you, it can lead to negative consequences such as arguments and hard feelings.
Seek outside support: From a therapist or another loved one
If you find yourself in a situation where a family member is constantly disrespecting you, it may be necessary to seek outside support. It may be from a therapist or another loved one.
Distance yourself from them emotionally or physically
Alternatively, it may be an idea to distance yourself from them, either emotionally or physically, for a while.
I know it’s easier said than done, but if you have exhausted every other avenue of communication and the situation is not improving, then it may be time to cut ties for a while in order to regain your own sense of self.
Marketing Director, Yorkshire Fabric Shop
Be straightforward with them
If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, it’s preferable to be direct with rude and disrespectful relatives.
Straightforwardness is the most effective approach to conveying your feelings. However, passive-aggressive strategies like laughing off an unfavorable comment or avoiding eye contact are also options.
They should be able to comprehend if they have no malicious purpose
If you don’t like what they said, tell them outright. You can set the stage for future conversations that are more open and vulnerable if you make it obvious that you don’t want to bond through targeted jokes.
If they have no malicious purpose, they should be able to comprehend without feeling defensive.
Electric Engineer | Founder, Electric Ride Lab
The thing about family is that we can’t always get along.
We have our differences, but we also share so much in common:
- Blood ties
- Love for one another
- The need to care for each other no matter what
Besides, if we don’t make it a priority to do just that, then there will be trouble.
So here are some tips on how you can deal with your family members who disrespect you:
Hold off from responding and let things go as they may
When someone disrespected you, it’s easy to want to lash out at them or respond in kind. But when you’re angry, you lose control over yourself. This makes it hard for you to think clearly.
If you can hold off from responding, you’ll most likely realize that this person isn’t worth getting upset over. Instead, try to move on and let things go as they may.
If you feel you’ve made up your mind about something, you should say to this person, write down who did what wrong first. Then wait until the next time you see them before confronting them again.
Be patient; don’t force your point by making a big scene
If you’ve been dealing with your family members long enough, chances are you know exactly which buttons to push and how to get under their skin.
This means that you might not be able to tolerate an outburst from someone else, especially if you were already pretty mad at the other person. It could even lead to a physical fight.
However, everyone has different limits.
If you’re not sure how far you can push someone before they push back, keep a few things in mind.
- Don’t act angry or aggressive toward the person.
- Don’t force your point by making a big scene.
- Remember that you are talking to a human being, not a piece of paper.
- Try to treat people with respect, even if you disagree with them.
- Don’t forget that you still need them to live, eat, sleep, etc.
Try not to judge them by your standards because you won’t be happy with them no matter what they choose to do.
Let others help; your loved ones will appreciate the gesture
When you’re trying to handle a situation involving a member of your family, you don’t necessarily need to go do it alone. You might just end up causing more problems.
Ask your friends for advice and support. Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak; it means you trust other people to know better than you what needs to happen. They’ve got your best interests in mind and will gladly advise without having any ulterior motives behind it.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help either. Your loved ones will appreciate the gesture.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most common reasons for disrespectful behavior by family members?
Disrespectful behavior in the family can stem from various reasons, such as:
• Miscommunication or misunderstandings
• Stress and external pressures
• Personality clashes
• Unresolved conflicts from the past
• Jealousy or insecurity
What if I’m not sure if I’m being disrespected or not?
It’s not always easy to tell if someone is being disrespectful to you or if you’re misinterpreting their behavior. If you’re unsure, it can be helpful to consider whether the behavior is causing you distress or making you feel uncomfortable.
If so, it may be worth having a conversation with the person to express your feelings and clarify their intentions.
What if I’m worried about upsetting other family members by confronting the disrespectful member?
Confronting a disrespectful family member can be tricky, especially if other family members are involved. It’s important to remember that your feelings and well-being are important, too, and that it’s okay to stand up for yourself, even if it causes temporary discomfort.
However, if you’re worried about causing drama or upsetting other family members, it may be helpful to have the conversation in the presence of a mediator or family counselor.
Is it ever okay to tolerate a family member’s disrespectful behavior?
While it’s understandable to want to maintain a harmonious relationship with family members, tolerating disrespect is neither healthy nor productive. It’s important to set clear boundaries and communicate your expectations, even if it means risking conflict with the other person.
It’s also important to know that tolerating disrespectful behavior can set a harmful precedent that can negatively impact other relationships in your life.
How do I know if it’s worth trying to save a relationship with a disrespectful family member?
Deciding whether it’s worth trying to save a relationship with a disrespectful family member can be tough. Ultimately, it depends on your own values, priorities, and the severity of the situation. Some factors you should consider are:
• Whether the family member has shown a willingness to change their behavior
• What impact the relationship is having on your mental health and well-being
• The potential pros and cons of ending the relationship
• Whether you feel the relationship is worth saving
How can I respectfully communicate my boundaries and expectations?
Respectfully communicating your boundaries and expectations can be challenging, especially if tensions are already high between you and the other person. Here are some tips on how to be assertive in a respectful way:
• Speaking from a position of compassion and empathy
• Avoiding personal attacks or criticism
• Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements
• Remaining calm and collected, even when upset or angry
• Avoiding ultimatums or threats
• Listening actively and validating the other person’s feelings
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