Here’s a fact: If you think your in-laws are greedy, they think you’re stingy. Assuming you are not at all stingy and that your in-laws truly are greedy, you are going to have to find a way to deal with these people. Sure, it would be nice if you could divorce your in-laws, but that isn’t going to happen without leading to troubles with your spouse. Dealing with greedy in-laws can be stressful, but using methods from psychology, you will be able to handle these pesky “family members.”
Convert your negative feelings toward them into negative feelings toward your negative feelings toward them. Read that sentence once more. Because changing a person is not a reasonable task for a lone person, the best way to reduce the stress in your relationship is to stop getting upset at them and start getting upset at your reactions toward them. Next time your in-laws ask to borrow money from you, instead of thinking “they are always like this; they won’t return the money and we both know it,” think something like “this is just how they are, and I’m not going to fret over this fact.” Such a mental reaction can relieve the mental stress these troublesome people give you. Note that these thoughts are just thoughts, not actions. In other words, you do not have to give into your in-laws' greedy demands just because you aren’t getting upset at their demands anymore.
Negotiate with objective criteria. Although the foremost action of handling greedy in-laws is to accept them for who they are, much like you would other family members, you are still going to need to find a way to counter their greedy demands. The best way to do so is to use objective criteria to discuss arrangements with them. Doing this can reduce arguments and frustrations within the family. If your in-laws want you to reimburse them for what they spent on your children’s Christmas presents, put your own feelings aside and discuss the situation using objective criteria. Ask them what reason they would have for justifying reimbursing presents, which are meant to be given without monetary expectations. Tell them that you can arrange a conclusion only after you’ve both agreed on a set of criteria that would be fair to both of you. Often, if people cannot logically justify their requests, they will simply give up.
Engage in fogging, which is a psychological therapy technique for use with especially difficult people, making it perfectly suited for dealing with in-laws. This technique works best when you know there is no “winning” an argument with a person. So, if your greedy in-laws are stubborn as well, you might find yourself using fogging often. You “fog” by agreeing with everything your in-laws say, but adding in “mights” and “maybes.” So, in response to your in-laws condemning you as stingy, you respond “you might have a point there.” Of course, you do not have to mentally agree with what they are saying, and your mental dialogue is likely the polar opposite. In fogging, you do not give into their final demands or conclusions; you simply give them verbal pseudo-agreement. Fogging works because in many situations, people just want to gain respect and acknowledgement for their thoughts and feelings; they do not always require you to act in the way they wish.
- Dealing with Difficult People; Albert Ellis
- Getting Past No; William Ury
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