You know the one.
You’ve just spent time at a family gathering, and the one sibling you can count on to drive you up the wall has outdone herself.
And you’re thinking, “Why is my sister so mean?”
You did your best not to respond in kind, but it’s getting harder.
Or your brother is the embodiment of toxic masculinity, and you just can’t take it anymore.
What can you do?
Why Are Siblings So Annoying and Disrespectful?
So, now that you can admit things like “My brother is disrespectful to me” or “My sister is a nightmare,” you might wonder what made them that way.
First of all, you’re not alone in having a complicated relationship with a sibling.
All due respect to whoever came up with “Blood is thicker than water,” the sibling bond is not unbreakable.
And you’re being related by blood doesn’t obligate you to tolerate toxic behavior.
How To Deal With Disrespectful Siblings: 13 Actions To End The Disrespect
You want to know the best way to deal with difficult siblings because you’re inches away from doing something you’ll probably regret.
1. Change the way you react to them.
Keep your calm even when you want to throttle them or put them in their place. We know how hard that can be. But, as a rule, losing your temper only makes things worse.
It doesn’t mean you can never call them out when they cross a line. But it’s possible to do so without resorting to personal attacks. You can suggest, for example, that they have other options to consider (instead of reacting with impatience or snark).
2. Know your rights.
First of all, you have a right to be angry when your sibling does or says unkind things to you or to people you care about. You have a right to call them out for it, too.
You have a right to protect yourself and the people you love from anyone — even a sibling — who terrorizes others with their temper or with passive-aggressive revenge tactics.
You have a right to leave the scene if your sibling’s behavior makes them impossible to be around.
Your other siblings, as well as your parents, have a right not to be dragged into every dispute between you two — or forced to choose sides.
Your annoying sibling has rights, too. But they don’t trump everyone else’s.
3. Set and maintain healthy boundaries.
When your sibling crosses a boundary of yours, don’t dismiss it as a one-off. Let them know what that boundary is and how seriously you take it. You can also tell them what you’re prepared to do if they cross it again.
You have a right to set and maintain personal boundaries and to expect others to honor them — just as you respect their boundaries.
If they counter accusing you of violating their boundaries, ask for specific details: what boundary, how you crossed it, and when. If they take it seriously, so should you. But you can apologize for that without relinquishing your right to set boundaries of your own.
4. Choose your battles.
Don’t try to fix them by constantly correcting them, one irritating behavior at a time. All you’ll do is feed the anger you both feel while sending the message that your sibling needs to be fixed.
Constantly correcting them will only frustrate you both — keeping you stuck in the role of the “fixer” and your sibling in the role of the “broken” one. Neither of you is likely to enjoy that.
There’s a time to speak up and a time to walk away. Learn which is which. And go easy on yourself if you misread the situation and do the wrong thing. You’re human. Just keep trying to do better, for both your sakes.
5. Speak up when necessary.
When it’s time to speak up or when you feel particularly moved to say something, say what you have to say without adding anything that would just muddy the waters.
Say something remotely disparaging of your sibling, and they’re sure to focus on that rather than on how you perceive their words or behavior.
Even if they disagree with you, focus on their behavior rather than on their character or personality. If you do, they’re less likely to feel attacked and retaliate.
6. Be patient with those who don’t (speak up).
Think of how they might experience the same frustration but feel trapped — not free to express what they’re thinking because the potential consequences of speaking up seem worse than their sibling’s behavior.
It’s also possible they keep silent because they know something you don’t — or because you know something they don’t. Whatever their reasons for not speaking, it’s usually best to give them the benefit of the doubt.
7. Prepare yourself (mentally) to be around them.
When you can’t avoid your difficult sibling’s company, you can at least prepare yourself for it. Think about how they usually get on your nerves and think of ways to minimize their opportunities to do so.
If you know your triggers — and they know your triggers — it makes sense to plan ahead.
You don’t have to be obvious about avoiding them (unless there’s no way to be subtle about it), but neither do you have to keep yourself in harm’s way to please anyone else.
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8. Focus on what you’re grateful for.
One of those things you’re grateful for could be not having to live with this sibling. Once the social event is over, you go in separate directions, each to their own home. And you can relish their absence as much as decorum allows.
By that, we mean it makes sense to consider how your manner of expressing gratitude might affect those around you.
Generally, though, expressing genuine, heartfelt gratitude has more benefits than caveats.
9. Remember, it’s not about you.
Okay, yes, they may be angry with you about something you did or said in the past. But the cause of their bitterness or resentment has far more to do with what’s going on in their own heads than with anything you’ve done.
Just recognizing that your sibling is torturing themself (and, to some extent, everyone around them) can make it a little easier to feel compassion for them and respond in a way that doesn’t put their sibling on the defensive–which tends to backfire.
I know someone who’s excellent at doing this. When possible (and appropriate), he uses humor to defuse the situation. And when humor isn’t the right approach, he’s calm, reasonable, and diplomatic.
10. Give yourself time and space to respond (rather than react).
You have a right to do what you have to do to protect your mental health and well-being. If being around your sibling weighs you down on the inside, try spending less time with them and practicing extra patience when you’re thrown together.
When they get on your last nerve, find a place where you can be away from them. Give yourself time to process what you’re thinking and feeling and to decide, with a cooler head, how to respond or what to do next.
11. Try to see things from their perspective.
See if you can get to the root of their disrespectful or annoying behavior. The better you understand them — and yourself — the easier it is to avoid taking their behavior personally.
We’re not suggesting for a second that it shouldn’t feel personal because it probably will. Shoulds have no place here. This is a should-free zone.
What we are saying is it helps to at least try to see the situation from your sibling’s viewpoint, however difficult that might be.
12. Look for common ground.
Who knows? You might even bond over something you have in common — a shared memory, shared pain or joy, or a shared perspective on an incident in your past.
You probably have something in common if you grew up together, even if that something feels too insignificant even to mention. Those little fragments of commonality often have strings attached that lead you to other things.
Sometimes, all you need is one small thing to hold onto.
13. Use their behavior as fuel for self-growth.
If anyone has ever told you, “Being bullied builds character,” they’re mostly wrong. Being bullied doesn’t benefit anyone–or it doesn’t do so automatically, any more than being poor makes you a better person.
The character you have didn’t come from being bullied or being poor or going through any other kind of painful experience; it came from how you dealt with those experiences. It came from how you responded to them and how you used them to help yourself grow.
You don’t have to learn anything from your experiences. You have a choice.
Now that you know how to deal with annoying siblings, which points stood out for you? And what will you do differently?