How can I stop my loved one from going on hateful rants?
MM / Framingham
You don’t need to have a conversation with him. Your hateful loved one knows exactly what they’re doing wrong, which is why they’re avoiding you. Look, if he was defecating on the mats at a family gathering, would you feel the need to sit him down and calmly explain your objections to him, in a neutral environment, using lots of “I feel” statements, before to have the right to react at the time? Would that somehow seem unfair to the literal Party Pooper? Of course not. He knows what hate speech is, he knows his own family wants him to stop, he knows exactly what you want to talk to him about. You don’t owe people personal, heartfelt, vulnerable but logical explanations why they should behave with a modicum of human decency.
I guess when you say your family ignores you don’t mean they really ignore it – like in no response, no arguing, no giggles, no eye contact, everyone just acts like they didn’t say anything – because it might actually work. Alternatively, you can say something like, “Raw. No one wants to hear that kind of talk, we all want to hear grandma’s fried chicken recipe. Then start a conversation with grandma. If he does it again, you and everyone with you, get out. “Going out” can mean leaving entirely, decamping to a local restaurant, or simply going to another part of the house.
Start building more individual relationships within your family. Organize your own family events for family members who can behave themselves. If the Party Pooper finds out and is offended, you can offer them a chance to show that they can be a decent guest…but you don’t have to. The Party Pooper has made their choices, now you make yours. We’ve all heard so much about families divided by racism or conspiracy theories. What these admittedly sad stories leave out is that sometimes the remaining relationships run deeper. Mostly because sooner or later a member of Hated Group X will join the family, or someone will come out as having been X all along. Don’t you want this person to know who the safe people in the family are?
It’s not “making waves”. It’s riding the wave of hate and incivility your parent has already created, while the rest of the family stands on the beach as the water breaks above their heads and insists one for the other that they are not wet, that they are not wet at all.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a doctorate in psychology.