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How to Avoid a Rude Relative at a Small Gathering

by Maura Banar, studioD

Being related to someone does not necessarily mean they share your approach to manners. Rude relatives can be a particular source of anxiety because the possibility nearly always exists that you will cross paths. Confrontation, especially in family gatherings, can make matters worse and cause polarization of factions of family members who choose sides based on emotions and allegiance. In these cases, avoiding a relative who is rude may be a way of reducing your feelings of anxiety as well as decreasing the potential for ruining an otherwise enjoyable event. Small gatherings pose a particular challenge, because they don't provide you with a wide variety of people and places where you can avoid interaction.

Surround yourself with people whose company you enjoy and who aren't rude. Although the gathering may be small, it's likely there will be one or two individuals with whom you can spend your time. If these individuals also share your opinion about the rude relative's behavior, you've also found kindred spirits and have much to discuss. Don't make your alliance during the gathering a forum for bashing your rude relative. This can have the opposite effect and can cause you to appear rude to other people. Instead, avoid speaking about the rude relative and focus instead on topics that are more positive.

Walk away if you see a rude relative approaching. Just because you're related doesn't make you obligated to endure your rude relative. Find yourself a reason to leave the immediate area and help the host clean, engage in a conversation with someone or excuse yourself to the restroom briefly. Your emotional and physical disengagement will likely signal to the rude relative that you aren't interested in interacting with them. If however, you have a rude relative who can't take "no" for an answer, explain to them that you can't talk and have to go help with the dishes or use the restroom. Keep in mind that you don't need to be rude, just firm and you aren't required to provide your rude relative with a lengthy explanation for your behavior.

Set emotional boundaries with your rude relative. If you've encountered your rude relative enough to know that you need physical and emotional space away from them, you have every right to establish those boundaries. According to Johnson State College in their online publication “Things You Should Know About Boundary Setting,” setting emotional and physical boundaries may require a firm statement that includes specific consequences for noncompliance. In the case of a rude family member, if placing physical space between you isn't effective, it may be necessary to state to them that their rude behavior is not appealing nor is it acceptable in your presence. Add to that statement a consequence such as letting the rude relative know you will leave the room and possibly, the gathering.

Elicit the assistance of other attendees to the gathering in helping you avoid the rude relative. Despite the fact that this may be a last resort to avoiding your rude relative, you may also be surprised that other individuals probably share your sentiments. Rude individuals don't typically hide their rudeness and in speaking with other people at the gathering, you may find kindred spirits. Together, you can assist in helping one another to avoid your rude relative, by sticking together in small groups. Additionally, distracting one another and requesting each other’s presence to give each of you an excuse to avoid interacting with your rude relative.

About the Author

Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.

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