Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Advice? Help?

I guess every family has high tension at the holiday when everyone gets together, right?

I was just wondering at what point do you just listen to one family member say bad things about another family member and how do you tell them that you're not comfortable with that? I was caught a little by surprise by that this past weekend, and I'm not sure if there's anything I can do now. I probably should have told them at the time that I didn't want to hear it - instead I tried to defend the accused person, but that didn't really work. Anything I said was rejected because it didn't agree with their opinion. Any ideas? Should I do anything about it now, or should I just wait and figure out what to do if (when) it happens again?


morgan said...

This was actually a problem that I dealt with in my family when I was a teenager. The problem with defending the person is that the family member that's berating them will (at least in my experience) probably never see it from your point of view. And that's fine, chances are their opinion is based in some sort of fact; however distorted it may or may not be. But the fact remains that you probably won't be able to change their mind, and realistically, they probably won't change yours.

What I had to do was next time it happened was to simply say (as tactfully as possible) that you understand what they're saying, that you don't agree with them and that you don't want to talk about it anymore. Will they think you naive for not wanting to listen what bad things they have to say about the person? Probably. But in my experience, that's better than listening to one person I love demonize another person I love.

Anyways, that's my advice. You can take it or leave it. Either way, good luck; these situations are never fun.

Nick said...

I thought you were talking about me making fun of Jenny's Settlers of Catan playing strategies, but then I realized that was on Monday.

Jenny said...

I like Morgan's advice—plus it's what we do with Lu when she's throwing an (irrational) tantrum: acknowledge what's going on, tell her we don't agree with/accept this behavior, and move on to something else. Not that it's working, mind you, but super nannies and 911 nannies and our pediatrician say it's our best shot. Unfortunately for you the last step might be harder—with Lu I just show her a new toy or offer to read a new book (ooh, new book ...). Or a cookie. She really likes cookies. Maybe try cookies sometime.

JonnyF said...

Few things truly upset me more (in contrast to the many things that merely annoy me). Historically, my response to the situation has been to either 1) Listen and say nothing if the bad things aren't too bad (e.g. generally well known things that could still be topics of conversation if the person in question were present). 2) Subtlely try to change the subject. 3) Leave the room (my most frequent response).
I have a tendency to retreat from any conversation that I find uncomfortable or otherwise not worth my time. However, in the situation you describe I would actually like to be more proactive in the future and, instead of retreating, change the subject (subtley or not) but avoid giving a lecture.

Julie C said...

Thank you everybody - I just felt like my mind went blank, and it really wasn't a conversation that would have happened in front of the person being discussed, so I just squirmed. It reminds me of how young and foolish I really am sometimes.