Nearly all families have one person who is always right. If you begin to tell a story, or to state a point of view, this person will nearly always come up with an opposing argument. The difficult family member’s agreeability may be very low. This is usually a personality trait that is permanent (cf. The Big Five Personality Test).
Don’t try to change the difficult one. Often, we feel a strong desire to show the difficult person the error in his or her ways. But this won’t make the situation easier, and it won’t make us feel better in the long run. You will only come second and the legacy will be a fighting family and any chance of peace shattered.
Be smarter, outwit the difficult one. But how? By letting go of the idea that you must win an argument to feel good. Also, by doing away with the fantasy that things must always be my way. Give up on trying fixing him or her. By deciding to suspend the idea that I must resist this person, I become the emotional leader in that relationship! I then become the architect of a more peaceful relationship.
This means accepting the difficult person for who he or she is, including any discomfort or even pain that they are creating. Practicing this kind of acceptance is about dropping the fantasy of how we think things ought to be. You might have a fantasy of a sweet, close relationship with your daughter-in-law, for example, and so you feel angry and disappointed every time she does something that doesn’t live up to this fantasy.
This doesn’t mean that you need to agree with the person, just that you’re showing him or her a basic level of respect as a human being. Engaging with a person this way—acknowledging his or her point of view without judging it—can make him or her feel more understood; and, as a result, less defensive or difficult.
When this person is speaking, try not to interrupt with counter-arguments or even with attempts to try to get him or her to see things differently.
We are all just looking for love and approval. The greatest gift we can give a difficult person—and ourselves—is to accept them fully, with love.