Family relationships are some of the most important in your life. There are many families that you may be relating to:

• the family you grew up in
• your extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents, nieces, nephews, and all their husbands and wives
• your current family
• perhaps the family members of your ex

To have significant relationships with people in your family, you need to connect with them often, whether in person, on the phone, e-mailing, or texting. Whatever way is best for you, making that contact on a regular basis is crucial.

Being Close and Being Far Apart

You may find you’re closer to certain family members than others and that you contact the ones you’re closer to more often. This is fine. Although it’s important to keep contact with everyone, having a stronger relationship with some family members than others is normal.

You aren’t with them because of your similarities; in fact, there’s a good chance there are stark differences in how you believe and see the world. If this is the case, especially if you or your family member gets emotionally upset if the other side is presented, then as much as possible, it’s better to leave those subjects of difference alone and don’t even bring them up.

You don’t have to keep beating each other over the head with how differently you see things. That can ruin a relationship very quickly, so stay away from those topics on which you know there is great disagreement.

Building Relationships with Family Members

The tips for having a high-quality relationship with family members are the same as those for being a good friend. Keep in touch. Be sensitive to the needs of the other person. Help them and give emotional and practical support when there’s a crisis or a need.

Give compliments. Look for things you appreciate about them to comment on. Remember their birthdays. Visit during holidays. Be positive and happy around them. Keep your word, and apologize if you’re in the wrong.

Many adults feel like children again when they’re around their family members. The old patterns re-emerge, and they act just like they did as children or teenagers. But as self-confident adults, it’s time to break out of those patterns.

Use Self-Confidence When Dealing with Family Members

Use assertive statements to state how you see things and work to resolve a situation that isn’t working for you. Be upfront; don’t hide and don’t be passive. Even if there’s a chance that your family member will react in an aggressive manner to make you be passive again, speak up! The more you speak up and state your wants and needs, the more likely it is that your family member will begin to respect you.

If you don’t get what you want right away, bring it up a second time, perhaps a third time. If they continue to be very aggressive and deliberately try to hurt you after you’ve brought the subject up many times, then you’ll know it’s time to pedal back on that relationship. However, most family members will ultimately work with you if you speak up enough times.

Exercise

Step 1: Think about the patterns you had with your family members growing up. Was there physical fighting with siblings? Was there arguing? Were you made to feel “less than”? Was there one sibling or parent you had an exceptionally loving relationship with? Were you passive and did what your parents or siblings told you to do?

Step 2: Think about how these patterns have stayed the same or changed with your family members as you are now an adult.

Step 3: Make three columns on a sheet of paper. Write each pattern down on the left-hand margin, both positive and negative ones. In the middle column, write if it’s a positive pattern you want to keep or a negative one you want to change. In the right-hand column, write down an assertive statement for each negative pattern and a compliment for each positive pattern.

Step 4: Implement these.

Author's Bio: 

Vivian Harte is the co-author of Self-Esteem for Dummies in the Dummies series. She has helped over 12,000 people learn and use assertiveness skills during the last 14 years. She teaches online classes on assertiveness, self-confidence, and teamwork. She has a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a Masters degree in Public Administration. She taught college classes for many years in Tucson, Arizona. She has two grown children who are both successful. She lives in Tucson with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

She offers three online courses and 1-on-1 coaching, and you can find out more about these at her website, self-esteem-for-me.com. Discover how to improve your relationships and be a stronger personality in her online course Stop Being a Doormat and Start Using Your Personal Power to Build Healthy Relationships.