Need more compassion
September 26, 2012 1:37 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with being aggravated with people you can't avoid?

Some of my relatives are staying with us. I live with my parents. I am very aggravated with the things my relatives say and believe... and I do things to spite/ not talk to them. I don't respect them and I find it hard to when I disagree with so much of her beliefs. They are staying short term so this is a temporary problem, but I feel this way about many of my relatives and some people I've had to live with.

It's almost a knee-jerk reaction. I have some reasons I don't like them, but overall I should not be aggressive towards them because 1) they don't mean harm, 2) they are only here for a while. However, I can't stop being annoyed with them, it's like my heart hardens when they're around.

What are things I can think to soften my heart around these people? They'll be gone shortly so it doesn't make sense to be displeased in the time together. Yet I feel like throwing something at the things they say/ believe.
posted by ichomp to Human Relations (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Don't engage with them, particularly not about things that you know you will disagree with, like their beliefs. Just change the subject or otherwise do not respond. I know people who have very strong beliefs that clash with mine. My rule is to never bring it up, and never respond when it comes up.

Yes, of course it's hard work, particularly when they're there in your home, but it's worth practising tolerance, because it is so common to come across people who live their lives in ways that are diametrically opposite to your own ideas of what's right. They don't mean harm and are not being malicious. If you get angry with them and spite them, then unfortunately, you're the one who is at fault, even though they're the ones saying the ridiculous things. You sound like someone with a strong moral sense. Take the high road.
posted by Ziggy500 at 1:53 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

There are plenty of people in my life who say and do things that I strongly disagree with. I am an extremely liberal member of a family that has mostly... non-liberal members. The important thing to remember is that my views are just as aggravating to them as theirs are to me. I'll talk with a sympathetic friend about my irritation, let it go, then be done with it. I don't actively seek out conversations that could be inflammatory, and I let comments that offend me roll right off my back. I may disagree, even strongly, but it's not my responsibility to sway people to my worldview, and frankly, it's a waste of time.

tl;dr: If I want people to treat me and my opinions with respect, I feel an obligation to do the same for others.
posted by xyzzy at 1:55 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Pretend you have a very small part in a play and you're one of them. Minimize your time on the stage; maximize your time being elsewhere. But when you are on the stage, your character believes what they believe. Also, pretend they are not really as bad as you think; they're also only acting parts and they'll be as cool as you when the play is over and they go home. You're all just playing parts in an Off-Off-Broadway production of "Those Harmless Temporary Fuckers." When the play is over, you can all be your fabulous selves again.
posted by pracowity at 2:01 AM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Go out a lot. Sing and dance to burn off steam when you get some time in your own space. Regard any disturbing effect on your calm that they have as them having won, and refuse to be bothered. Lounge about read magazines and books whose authors agree with you without trying to hide them from your relatives, not to be inflammatory but just because you have a right to be yourself and it's nice to commune with like minds. Breathe.
posted by springbound at 2:09 AM on September 26, 2012

'Lounge about readING magazines and books', that should say, sorry.
posted by springbound at 2:11 AM on September 26, 2012

Best answer: I do things to spite/ not talk to them

The older I get, the more convinced I become that the most important thing a human being can be is kind.

Practise conscious kindness.
posted by flabdablet at 4:13 AM on September 26, 2012 [14 favorites]

Try to find points of connection that aren't related to your differences. Maybe they love baking - so ask for their help making a batch of muffins.

Don't engage on the disagreements. If it comes up, excuse yourself or change the subject. Or try to imagine how they have come to have those beliefs. If they push it's ok to say "I want to enjoy the time that you're here, let's not fight."

My parents are very conservative - I think mostly because it comes with the religious territory. I know how important religion is to them and how it's defined their lives and how devestating it would be to come to the conclusion that all of that was wasted. That makes it easier to shrug it off when dad says something snarky about climate change.
posted by bunderful at 4:52 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you look past their exterior (I mean the things they say or believe) to see their interior good person? Surely they have done good, even amazing, things in their lives. They've helped someone, or made a sacrifice, or been there when others weren't. They are or were important to someone else. If you were a perfect person, capable of loving-kindness toward everyone, what would you see in them? That's what you're looking for here. Find whatever it is that makes them unique, special, good, and work hard to see past the annoying parts to that good part.
posted by Houstonian at 4:56 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

You don't need to focus on touchy feely crap like 'softening your heart' and 'feeling compassion', you need to grow up and behave like a responsible adult. They say something that annoys you? Ignore it. It's like how you see a six year old throwing a tantrum because their friend told them that blue pencilcases are stupid - you don't tell the kid to learn to accept their friend's viewpoint, you tell them to ignore it and not respond.

I don't know if you've ever had a job, but imagine you met someone like this at work. You would (hopefully) suck it up and simply not engage with them on the topic. Think of this as practice for dealing with that hypothetical wingnut co-worker one day.
posted by jacalata at 5:06 AM on September 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I understand the posters who have advised not responding/ignoring the things that they say or do, but I feel like this has the potential to make things even more strained, because now they're saying stupid things and you've put yourself in a position where you're powerless to disagree, or where you're implicitly agreeing. Personally, I'd feel both resentful and like my integrity was suffering. It's important to be honest, though you can be honest without being confrontational.

I think it's important for both parties to acknowledge the disagreement, without getting into a big thing. A simple "I disagree, but could we talk about something else?" or , "This topic makes me pretty uncomfortable. Can we talk about something else?"or, when they make a statement where what they've said really bothers you, but wasn't declarative enough to use one of those sentences, you could lead with "I'm sorry, I don't understand, could you tell me what you mean?" This, if genuine, has two benefits. 1) you get a better understanding of their position, and so you might find it's not quite as offensive to you as you thought, and 2) they'll probably respond with a declarative statement, to which you could use one of the earlier phrases.

If they insist on pressing an issue, "I really don't want to talk/ argue/ get into this conversation. I know that it's just going to turn into a problem between us. If you (or you guys, if it's a group) really want to talk about it, that's fine, but I'm going to excuse myself from the conversation for a while". Say it politely, lovingly and kindly- you could put a hand on their arm or use other body language to indicate that you're not angry or looking down on them, it's the subject matter that's making you uncomfortable. You could even tell them that- and figure out a way to mean it. Then go ahead and leave the room. This way, you're not pushing your true feelings down, but you're not engaging with an argument either.

I would also suggest that you try not to be mad at them just because you don't like their opinions. It's really hard, but I'm sure that they have lots of good or even endearing qualities that you can focus on. That way, those statements will be coming from a place of love.

I can't guarantee that people won't be hurt/ offended by this approach, but as long as you're not being an asshole about it, there's no reason to make that your problem.
posted by windykites at 5:45 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I read a long time ago, in a children's book that no matter how awful your houseguests are, you must be unfailingly hospitable to them. You never have to invite them back, but while under your roof, you must be polite and kind to them.

Very few people are 100% anything. Therefore, you must have some common ground with them. Find it and focus on that.

If you are obviously put out with your parent's houseguests, you are making EVERYONE uncomfortable, and really, you don't have a right to do that.

Practice being polite to them, even if you have nothing but contempt for them. This is the bare minimum that a member of society should be able to do.

I suspect that you are young and are still very black/white about different issues. There is a middle ground, there are gray areas.

To be spiteful and annoyed is childish, and it doesn't reflect well on you at all. Rise above it. Go out of your way to be pleasant. This is how adults act.

You don't have to love them, you don't have to believe what they believe, but you do have to be nice to them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:46 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

you don't tell the kid to learn to accept their friend's viewpoint, you tell them to ignore it and not respond.

actually, in many, many- I'd say most- circumstances, I'd tell the kid to learn to accep their friend's viewpoint- I'd just tell them that in a way that a six-year-old could understand.
posted by windykites at 5:47 AM on September 26, 2012

Try not to put yourself in the same situation in which opinions come up. Don't watch television news, for example if you don't agree with their politics. Don't even talk about any current events in that case. I know its lame but maybe just talk about the weather? Offer to take them sightseeing to get conversation switched to something entirely different.
posted by JJ86 at 5:58 AM on September 26, 2012

More compassion isn't what you need. It's just patience for what bothers you. You need more practice ignoring and breathing deeply. I'm half joking when I say that. If you are younger, you will gain this gift when you get older. If you are indeed older, you know that there will be people and incidents that will show that the ceiling of patience needs to be raised.

You said it, they're only here for a moment, not forever, sing yourself a song and smile.
posted by Yellow at 6:01 AM on September 26, 2012

You may want to give this comment a read.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:12 AM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You don't have to like these people or respect their point of view but trust me, they already know you don't like them and have no respect.

Do a 180 degree attitude change and start treating them like actual human beings who are guests in your home. This is called being gracious and its one of those small things that rational human beings do to make the world a better place. If your parents have not taught you this lesson, then teach it to yourself.

(if you were a guest in their home due to circumstances beyond your control . . wouldn't you want them to treat you like a person instead of a stain on the rug?)
posted by jaimystery at 8:02 AM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I try and find neutral, common topics. Like my sister-in-law is part f the tea party and we have different values but we both love animals. So I tried to talk pets with her. She liked to cook yummy things so that was something we could talk about too. My dad had completely different values than his dad, so they talked about baseball. You get the idea.
posted by bananafish at 8:27 AM on September 26, 2012

I have to do this sometimes. My girlfriend's stepfather is very conservative, a little bit racist, and very aggressive about both of those things. I'm not sure if he thinks I agree with him, or if he's always trying to bait me into a political argument, but either way I'm determined not to get into it with him. What helped me to continue to like him was realizing that most of the opinions that he holds that I find most offensive are rooted in fear. The world and the country are changing in ways that scare the shit out of him, but he's not allowed to be scared, so he's converted that fear into something else.

Your relatives are likely the same way. Very few people are just naturally bad. Usually, at the root of whatever disgusting beliefs a person might hold, you'll find something basic and human, something that we all share. This is not to excuse bigotry, for example, but to help understand it, to see why and how it develops in otherwise good people.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:34 PM on September 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Not your ordinary fluoride   |   Facebook showing private messages Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.