If we're being honest, most of us would agree it can be a bit of a chore to get together with family.
But let's also be realistic. Some families have unique dysfunctions that can make holiday gatherings even more awkward. We're not here to solve any deep issues, but we do have some tips that could help with learning how to get along with family. Because regardless how deeply divided your clan is, there are ways to make the best of it. And the time tested tips below can get you on the way to at least getting through the holidays.
A Bit About Getting Along With Family
So if you're wondering how to get along with family members you don't even like, you're not alone. Whether it's someone who took advantage of you or made hurtful decisions, it can be easy to hold grudges. After all, these are usually the people you've known longest. Hurt feelings and guilt can run deep, but you can make the first steps toward reconciliations. Even if it's not that serious, maybe you just dread being around all the in-laws and second cousins. No matter your situation, following the steps below can make it a little more bearable.
Why Is It Difficult to Get Along With Family Sometimes?
Like all relationships, the family bond is different for all of us. And that means there are any number of reasons relatives might not get along. But there are a few primary causes for this stress. And understanding them can allow us to learn how to get along with family.
For starters, we're kind of stuck with our family in many cases. Unlike friends, who can simply grow apart as interests shift, our relatives are ours no matter what. And that means even those we really don't enjoy spending time with. Plus, since we're all individuals with different outlooks on life, there are obvious rifts in personality. But since we're connected through blood or law instead of choice, we're left to deal with them.
Why Is It Important to Know How to Get Along With Family?
Since you're linked with these people, it pays to make the most of it. Sure, you could avoid family gatherings. But that's only unfair to you and deprives you of time with those relatives you do want to see. And it's also just the right thing to do. Embrace the spirit of giving and the golden rule to extend grace even when it's not deserved if you truly want to know how to get along with family.
Do this for the good of those around you. But when you do, you're likely to find that you're getting something out of the decision too. You can lessen the load of resentment without counting on anyone else to change. Don't expect your family to grow and mature in the ways you think they should. If they do, however, celebrate those positive steps with them. Look for ways to be supportive without falsely encouraging destructive traits. In the end, you'll come away better off even if no one else does.
How to Get Along With Family
1. Be Realistic About Who's Who In Your Family
There's no reason you have to treat your family as a single entity. In reality, this is a diverse fabric woven with unique personalities. And you should remember that in the way you interact with each one of them. First of all, there are likely those you simply get along with better than others. That favorite cousin who shares a hobby or the aunt who always has a great joke.
Whoever those family members are for you should get special consideration. Focus on the positive parts of your family and raise the threshold to get upset about the negative parts. It all starts with being honest with yourself -- and about your family. You'll inevitably come up with a few names that you'd frankly rather not see at the reunion. But being realistic about this up front can put you in an advantageous position for best knowing how to get along with family.
By all means, keep things shallow with the folks you don't want to get deep with. Talk about the weather, share an easy compliment, and move on. Pleasantries are important in places other than the office. Don't encourage arguments, because this will only disrupt the gathering for everyone else. So if that means saving the deeper conversation for those you actually like, that's OK.
2. Don't Divide Your Time Evenly Among Relatives
Once you have an honest assessment of those around you, there's already an implicit ranking system. Those you want to spend the most time with will be near the top. Then there might be a few at the bottom whom you'd rather avoid. Well, don't be afraid to divide up your time accordingly. Knowing how to get along with family doesn't mean you have to suffer through toxic encounters.
Sure, you won't want to openly shun anybody. But don't think you have to spend as much time with all relatives equally. If you're facing several days with the clan, don't be afraid to branch off and do your own thing. Ask one or a few of your favorite relatives to join you for a movie or a long lunch or drinks. It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you have a pressure release valve. Just use it as a time to let off some steam -- but for everybody's sake, don't trash your other relatives. Then when you get back to the whole family, you'll be ready to face them with a refreshed attitude.
3. Keep Yourself -- And Those Around You -- Busy
When all else seems to fail, try to serve as the family's events coordinator. A lull in the conversation is typical. But if there's a long period of inactivity, the boredom could lead to bickering. So try to have a few activities or conversation starters in mind.
We know this might be easier for some people, and in some families. Depending on how many folks you'll be spending time with, learning how to get along with family will vary. But across the board, it's easier to overlook minor details if everybody's busy. Maybe it's getting people off the couch and involved in some chores. Cleaning up after dinner or after gifts are unwrapped are great opportunities. And it could be staging fun activities for the younger ones, getting even the stubborn older ones in on the action.
Whatever happens to work for your family, embrace it as everyone comes together. Get everybody working toward a common goal. It's not a permanent fix, but it might just lead to a different perspective. And after you've achieved a goal or scored a win with someone, even an estranged relative is a partner. Take whatever glimmers of camaraderie for what they are -- and don't give up on what they might become.
4. Give Your Relatives The Benefit Of The Doubt
Even if you limit the amount of time you spend with some relatives, you'll have to be pleasant. And we recommend giving everyone in your family a lot of leeway when you're with them. If you're truly wondering about how to get along with family, then put aside petty differences and appreciate your loved ones for who they are. Give them a hug, offer a compliment and muster up a sincere wish of holiday happiness.
If a serious topic must be addressed, do it with grace and forgiveness. That doesn't mean you'll approve of all of your family member's actions or attitudes. But that's not what learning how to get along with family is about. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt. And give it to yourself while you're at it. This family gathering won't last forever. Be thankful that the crazy times will come to an end. But at the same time, appreciate the time you do have and make the most of it.
That might mean being the bigger person. Maybe the recipient of your grace won't reciprocate. But even if you're the only one behaving with dignity, you'll get by unscathed. Just remain above the fray and try to be part of the solution. That brings us to the very important next step.
5. Make Sure You Set The Standard
Maybe you're not comfortable planning family outings or leading discussions. But whatever you do, you can lead by example. Keeping an open mind and a positive attitude has a tendency to spread to those around you. And whether you get a kind response in return or not, you've already set a positive precedent.
This might start out as a chore. You'll have to "force" yourself to be happy even when you just want to run and hide. But in reality, it's just a decision you make and commit to sticking to it. You will just make the most out of your time with family. Don't make any unattainable goals or set unrealistic expectations. Accept that some of it will stink. But do what you can to make even those times more pleasant when best navigating how to get along with family.
Contribute a good natured joke, a sage piece of advice, or whatever comes natural. Don't be pushy and make everyone follow suit. But the ones who are receptive certainly will. And the sour attitude of others will seem less important when you've got the right outlook.
6. Try To Plan Outings Based On Mutual Interests
Whatever you do, when learning how to get along with family, try to find some area of mutual interest. And maybe you'll have to stretch your own definition of "interest" to include something your family loves. If a relative loves tennis and you didn't hate it when you played 20 years ago, reserve a court. The point is that you'll be meeting on neutral turf.
If you can start with something in common, you're much more likely to end up having a decent time. It will show you know something about these people after all. And beginning any event on the right foot is important. Even if you've seen them dozens of times, if it's been a while you can still make a great first impression.
Just like you hope for the best from others, you can meet -- or exceed -- their expectations of you. And a great sign of good will is taking an interest in what they're already interested in. You might find you enjoy the activity, and spending time with your family, more than you initially thought.
Don't feel guilty for struggling with how to get along with family.
If so, share this article with your favorite relatives and friends. And leave us a comment below if you have any final thoughts or questions. For your friends still hoping to learn how to get along with family, be sure to share this article with them.