For example, a client shared that her father-in-law can make rude and caustic remarks when he visits. One year at dinner he turned to his wife and said, “Hey, old lady, get this recipe. I like it.” Another time, he called my client’s youngest a “whiner” when the child simply asked for more juice. Did she want to give him a piece of her mind and say, “That is rude and unacceptable at my table”? You bet. And, as I advised her, if this is consistent behavior, an off-line conversation needs to take place. However, in that moment, it might be best to choose peace. If you find yourself in a similar situation, depending on the remark, try humor. For example, when her father-in-law makes the “old lady” comment, she could say to her mother-in-law, “Gee, who is this old lady he’s talking about? Can’t be you, but I hope she’s a good cook!” In the case of the “whiner” remark, she could look at her son and say, “I’m glad you used your big-boy voice to ask for more juice.”
I know moments like these can put a damper on the day, but we can choose otherwise. If you’re dealing with someone like my client’s father-in-law, consider that like all of us, he simply wants to be loved and appreciated. Try asking him about a favorite childhood memory and truly listening as you enjoy your peace and a piece of pumpkin pie!