5 Types of Difficult Family Members and How to Deal With Them

How To Deal With Anxiety At Family Functions: Your Guide to Dealing with 5 Types of Toxic Communication Styles

by Christal Fuentes

The Holidays are upon us which can cause a bit of anxiety around family gatherings, especially for people who have that one family member they don’t get along with. Christal and Chrissy discuss the five types of toxic communication styles within families and how to respond – How to deal with in-laws you don’t get along with  & how to resolve conflicts.

One of the emails I get the most, outside intimate relationships, is “how to deal with a difficult family member,” and since the holiday’s are upon us, we thought we’d discuss the five types of toxic communication styles living within our family and how to deal with them. Since you know I believe relationships are a two way street, it’s important we aren’t pointing the finger without shining a light on toxic behaviors we’ve also contributed to the demise or disfunction of our relationships.

In this episode, we answer a question I know many can relate to, especially if you have an in-law you don’t get along with or doesn’t particularly like you. In-laws can be tricky especially when lines are blurred and your partner is close to their family. It is something that needs to be tackled with care, and today, I hopefully shine some light on the matter. Ready to discuss the five types of toxic communication styles in your family? Let’s get into it!

5 Types of Toxic Communication Styles in Your Family & How to Deal with Them:

1. Confrontational

Although there are times to confront issues head on, this difficult family member tends to believe that their inability to handle their anger is really just being “honest and communicative.” Confrontational people love to stay angry and just like a volcano about to erupt, they will look for any and every reason to pop off. Even if it has little to do with you. Add on personal family history, it is really easy to set this person off and they don’t hold back once they are started.

The best way to handle a confrontational person in your family especially if you don’t see eye to eye is to keep your space and remain neutral. If they are triggered by you there’s really nothing you can do or say that will stop them from acting irrationally. Should shit hit the fan with them, remain calm but assertive…

How to put this into practice:

You to confrontational person: “Kelly, I don’t mind talking this out with you once you calm down but I will not entertain you speaking to me in that way.”

The key is to not match their level of intensity but also, standing your ground when someone becomes disrespectful is important.

There’s a difference between being aggressive and assertive.

2. Passive Aggressive

Passive aggressive family members tend to have an air of envy. They love those drive by nips and like to address issues without addressing them at all. Instead they use sarcasm, cynicism, and backhanded compliments in an attempt to seem less petty but doesn’t know that it actually makes them THE MOST PETTY.

If there is a passive aggressive person in your family, the best way to deal with them is to call them out in a gentle but direct way. They like to hide behind their indirect communication style so calling them out forces them to be clear about what they meant.

How to put this into practice:

Ways to “call someone out” is to ask clear questions or be direct about your stance.

Passive aggressive family member: I saw your boyfriend took you to Italy, that must’ve been fun. I would love to go one day but I don’t know if I could let anyone pay for my trip.

You calling them out in gentle way: Yes, I absolutely enjoyed it, and what a lovely gesture it was for him to surprise me. Why would it be hard for you to accept any gift from someone you love ESPECIALLY if they wanted to take you on a romantic trip?

3. Judgmental

It is very normal to have a justice meter, but judgmental people tend to believe they know what’s right ALL THE TIME. When they criticize they mask it with believing it’s because they know what’s best. They have unrealistic expectations of people that, a lot of the times, their family members don’t feel they add up around these people. It can make it difficult for people to feel at ease when they are around them.

Want an opinion?… this persons got millions. The truth is you probably don’t care about theirs but because they are family you want to show compassion but don’t know how to say… “get out my business and I don’t need your advice.”

The best way to handle a judgmental person is to own your story. Judgmental people will trigger your insecurities because a lot of the times, we are already judging ourselves. But when you are confident in your truth no matter if it sounds good to others or not, judgmental family don’t really have ammunition against you.

How to put this into practice:

Judgmental family member: “I don’t really think it’s smart you quit your job. I know you think following your passion is the right thing to do but you also need to be smart and logical about what you are doing. How are you going to pay your bills?”

You owning the damn conversation: “I can see why you would think that and yes, I’ve definitely had that concern as well. But since running the pros and cons I do believe this was the right move for me. It’s a risk I felt comfortable taking.”

Being certain about who you are and the decisions you’ve made or even just owning up to past mistakes, takes the leverage away from a judgmental person.

4. Sensitive or Avoidant

Have you ever felt there was an unspoken issue with someone in your family. They find every way to avoid or ignore you but you don’t know what you did? Sensitive personality types are really hard to dissect because they aren’t outwardly confrontational. If they are confrontational, it lands on the spectrum of passive aggressive.

Usually sensitive or avoidant family members will just find every way to avoid speaking about what it was that bothered them in the first place, making it really hard for you to mend a severed relationship. Taking things personally is their forte. Sensitive family hold grudges for a long time. Sometimes, never creating room to mend.

It keeps you feeling like the bad guy and every family gathering leaves you walking on egg shells as to not offend them anymore.

The way to deal with a sensitive avoidant person in your family, is to make the time to speak with them privately and from an open heart space.

How to put this into practice:

You to sensitive family member: “Hi Kelly, do you have a moment to chat?”

*once in private space…*

“I feel something has happened between us and I’m not sure if it was something I did, but I love you and I’d be open to discuss and if there’s a way to mend this, I want to do that…”

*you then have to be open and ready for what they have to say without feeling attacked.

If you feel you’ve done all you can to mend this relationship, the best thing you can do is release the negative feelings you have attached to them and feel satisfied in your attempts to reconnect so that there isn’t any hostile energy regarding them for future family events.

5. Instigator or Gossiper

Everyone has a little troll in their family. Someone who LOVES to see a little drama unfold. On the lighter end of the spectrum, it’s pretty funny to most family members but for the people they are initiating drama with, its unbearable.

Instigators and gossipers thrive on getting a rise off of you. It’s their greatest thrill. You may dread going to family functions because you know this person is going to get underneath your skin, or worse, pit someone against you.

How to put this into practice:

The best way to handle an instigator is to not take what they say too personally. Dilute their credibility with a…”yeah ok, Johnny, that sounds real.”

Or if they put you and another family against each other, call out the instigator in front of them by saying..

“Did Johnny say that? Yeah, lets talk privately because Johnny took what I said out of context.”

Gossipers usually don’t have any conversations of substance so they will find any and every way to feel like they are breaking significant news. But don’t subscribe to it. The more you let it roll off your back the quicker they move on. No drama is their kryptonite so they will find someone who is more offended.

Is there anyone in your family that falls into anyone of these categories? My family would say that I’m a bit judgmental. In fact, my mom (no joke) spelled out the word JUDGMENTAL in the air when she described me. I have to agree to some extent and trust me, I am working on it. Not that I’m looking down at people intentionally, but sometimes our intentions don’t match the experience people have of us. At some point, however, we have to take ownership of that too. So even though my gift is to see people’s potential, I need to be aware that I don’t mask judgment with potential.


Sleep training: This past month Andrew and I started a gentle sleep training with Dream Baby Sleep. Carolynne, the Founder, was absolutely, AMAZING! She guided us virtually through email and catered our plan to fit our parental needs. There are many different practices for sleep training and we knew that for us, the most gentle approach was going to be more fitting to us. It. Was. HAAARD! There’s no way around it unfortunately. But now Rowan is sleeping full nights and not depending on us rocking him for his naps. It’s been a win win!

Show of the Month: The Queens Gambit – I literally know NOTHING about chess and quite honestly… couldn’t care less, BUT this show was incredible! Had every element you want from a story line, plus, a badass woman, what more could you ask for?

The Queen's Gambit

xx Christal


How to Deal with Difficult Family Members

5 Ways to Deal with In-Laws Who Don’t Like You 

How to Deal with Family Estrangement

How to Deal with Negative People Who are Addicted to Problems


Christal Fuentes

about the author

Christal Fuentes

Christal is the Founder of The Ladies Coach. She lives and breathes her belief which is that you can’t find fulfillment in life without mastering the art of relationships.


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