How to Deal With a Rude Family Member

Three Methods:Avoiding Him at Family FunctionsConfronting HimSpeaking to Other Relatives

While we can choose our friends, we can’t choose our family. Nasty, rude family members can be difficult to deal with; however, it is important to learn how to cope with them rather than letting your anger cause a rift. Whether you only see him once a year or every other day, take steps to salvage your mental health and familial bonds.

Method 1
Avoiding Him at Family Functions

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    Go to a different location. While it may be unavoidable, large family gatherings usually require a large space. Get away from any rude family members by simply changing locations. Be polite and greet him with a handshake and a smile; you’re not obligated to engage in anything more.
    • Stay out of earshot. Even if you change locations, you may still be able to hear something infuriating. Be sure to move into a room where his voice will be muffled or close the door of the room he is in.
    • If it is a family member that you will see everyday like your sibling, schedule yourself to limit your time with him. For example, join extra-curricular activities after school so you won't have to be at dinner with your rude younger brother.
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    Change the topic if you get into an uncomfortable conversation. Many times rude people are simply trying to get attention by eliciting a reaction. If you know what topics she enjoys evoking, avoid them by bridging to a more neutral conversation that won’t require her opinion or reaction.
    • For example, steer clear of her political views and talk about topics that you know she enjoys and remains positive about like her recent home improvements. Say something like, “That is a difficult issue that I’d like to read more about before I place my vote. Speaking of reading, I read an article on how to build a really great deck. How long did it take you to build yours?”
    • If it is a family member that you have to interact with every day, keep cordial. Talk about common interests or dislikes to form a bond.
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    Distract him with an activity. Depending on the size of the family gathering, there may be opportunities to break away and start an activity. Large family gatherings may need people to help supervise children, prepare the meal, or clean the location. Delegating a job that he enjoys will keep him occupied.
    • For example, ask for help with your car, home renovation tips, or playing sports with the kids.
    • Be careful not to include him in an activity where he could offend more people. If you ask him to participate in activity with a lot of social interaction, you could be fueling a volatile situation.
    • Keep busy around the house or take up a new hobby to stay away from any rude siblings. Better yet, fuel the interest or support the hobby of your rude family member. For example, if your rude brother likes a certain type of book or video game, buy him several of that genre to keep her occupied.[1]

Method 2
Confronting Him

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    Be clear about what’s acceptable. Determine what bothers you about this family member. Be rational and analyze your own thoughts openly and honestly. If it helps, try saying your thoughts aloud to a trusted friend or another family member. Always sleep on your emotions for several days to ensure they are accurate and not irrational.[2]
    • Recognizing how you feel will help you tailor a solution to the problem.
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    Organize your thoughts and plan to communicate rather than argue. Writing down what you want to say allows you to construct a coherent and rational communication plan.
    • Begin with a flow chart or brainstorm your thoughts and emotions.
    • Practice and rehearse what you will say. Whether you talk in front of a mirror or go over your talking points with other family members, get comfortable speaking about this issue and being in a hostile scenario.
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    Articulate your frustration. Silence enables bad behavior. Other family may not be comfortable stepping in. Have a frank discussion and let her know how her behavior is affecting you and the rest of the family.
    • Take a deep breath before and during the confrontation.[3] Keep calm when delivering news that the person may see as accusatory. Open body language and a friendly demeanor can help defuse their defensiveness.[4]
    • Remember people who are rude may be in denial or become defensive.
    • Use "I-statements", to express how you feel rather than starting a statement with "you". Don't place blame but rather state clearly how you feel while listening to what they have to say.
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    Communicate what actions need to take place in order to rectify the situation. Make sure to choose your words carefully and not to escalate the emotions with an angry or elevated tone.[5]
    • For example, if you are confronting your younger brother, say something similar to, "I don't appreciate your snarky and sarcastic comments. There's a time and place for jokes. It's fine to joke around with your friends, or with me when we are watching tv, but please don't say things that will upset mom and dad. Don't say things at the dinner table, especially after they've both had a long day."
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    Schedule a convenient time and pick a quiet place. You may escalate the situation if you confront your family member in front of others because they may feel embarrassed and will want to lash out. Choose a place where you can present yourself as equals.
    • Scheduling around her can ensure that she doesn’t feel blind-sided or rushed for a response. Scheduling shows that you are considerate of her time and that you have thought about this conversation enough to prioritize it.
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    Empathize with his situation. Be objective and don’t let any emotions cloud your judgment. Make it a priority to get to know your family member more before you confront him. Perhaps he is rude because he had a tough upbringing or because he feels insecure about his accomplishments relatives to the rest of the family.[6]
    • Don't broach difficult topics by becoming rude yourself. For example, if she often references how much you make compared to her, let her know that you know how hard it's been for her and her family. Offer advice and let her know that you know where she's coming from with an example of how you had to move up to get to where you are financially.
    • Say something like, "Am I misreading you? You're coming off very rude. Please let me know if I'm misinterpreting what you're saying or let me know why you're upset. I'm here to listen and make sure I understand what you're saying."

Method 3
Speaking to Other Relatives

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    Ask relatives who have a better rapport with him to confront him about his behavior. Family dynamics can be complex so seek out the best person suited to confront your rude family member. Use other family members as a buffer. Speak to his closest confidants so you don’t have to confront him yourself.
    • For example, he may have a closer relationship with his cousin than his brother or a closer relationship with his grandfather than his father. Have someone he respects speak with him.
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    Speak to your relatives to see if her actions have affected them as well. Make sure that her rudeness is actually a problem and not just you being overly sensitive. Ask them one-on-one and assure them that you just want to make sure that everyone in the family is treated with respect.
    • Some family members won’t want to create unnecessary drama. Make sure you have the approval of the majority of your family.
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    Be an example for good behavior. Be kind and respect every family member. Just because he is rude doesn’t mean you should reciprocate. Take the higher road and keep a pleasant demeanor to diffuse any negative situations.
    • Don’t use up valuable emotional and mental resources by dwelling on what you can’t control. Focus on what makes you happy about your family and look to strengthen these bonds and enjoy the moments you have with them.


  • It is important to stay calm.
  • Timing can play a role in your delivery. Wait for the right time because a bad day can already have your family member starting on the defensive.
  • Keep it simple. Get to the point and eliminate anything vague or ambiguous.
  • Be transparent, authentic, and truthful.
  • If you are planning to confront your family member with a letter, email, or a note be sure to leave it where they will find it and make sure that this is the best method to bring your point across. Unless you have no other means of communicating or your relationship utilizes the written word frequently, some family members may find it passive aggressive or place other negative emotions towards the gesture.


  • Your family member may become defensive or combative. Take 2 seconds to keep your composure and then respond. Ask yourself if you are listening to respond or listening to understand and don’t be afraid to pose this same question to him.

Article Info

Categories: Family Life