Uncommon Ways To Connect with Difficult Family Members

Uncommon Ways To Connect with Difficult Family Members

We can’t get along with everybody all the time—including our family. Sometimes, it’s hard to get along with relatives because we know each other too well. Since we’re family, we feel we can put our worst foot forward and still be forgiven and welcomed back into the fold. Most of us know the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” Whether you believe that to be true or not, there are still difficult people in our families whom we have to get along with for the sake of holidays, our children, and our self-respect.

If you need a few uncommon, unique ways to connect with those aunts, cousins, grandparents, siblings, etc., check out these ideas.

1. Sense of humor

Maybe you and your uncle don’t exactly get along, but both of you have the same love language—sarcasm. Or perhaps you and your dad haven’t been pals since he disagreed with your career choice, but you both love the same comedian. When everyone enjoys the same sense of humor, it’s easy to get folks laughing and lighten the mood.

2. Pet peeves


If you don’t like the same things as your cousin, maybe you dislike the same things. Hey, you gotta take common ground where you can get it! If you both have the same hang-ups about whether someone talks with their mouth full, chats too loud, has too many cats, etc., use that disdain as a means to bond with someone you might not share many similarities with.

3. Politics (Yeah, I went there.)

This isn’t an excuse to start drama at dinner or gang up on family members who vote differently than you. Please don’t be that person. However, if you and a certain relative hold similar political views, it’s easy to spark a conversation centered on recent legislation, a local election, economics, international relations, and more. These things are constantly occurring, so they make for easy conversation.

4. Collections

Do you collect vintage stamps? What about snow globes? Old records? Vintage cars? Doesn’t matter the thing, the price, or just how stooped you are into the hobby, if you and a relative collect the same thing, well, there’s your conversation starter. The two of you can discuss upcoming antique shows, car shows, or conferences. You can also discuss the best people and places for vintage deals or bundle prices.

5. Mutual friends

Who cares if the connection isn’t super strong or that lots of time has passed? If your aunt’s best friend from kindergarten is also your husband’s old English teacher from high school, use that mutual friend connection to your benefit. Both of you can praise how kind she’s always been or share funny stories the other person doesn’t know.

6. Pets

The two of you as human beings might not get along, but there’s a chance you both have incredible relationships with your dogs, cats, lizards, fish, and ferrets—you get the point. It doesn’t matter if you both hold annual passes to the local zoo or both have a collection of hermit crabs, let the pets be what bonds the two of you.

7. Similar struggles

Few things bond people like similar struggles. In fact, people who experience hardships together, whether they were friends before or not, share what psychologists now call the “trauma bond.” When people go through similar hardships, they understand each other on a level that most people can’t. Despite the heaviness of sharing similar struggles with a family member, let that be a starting point for encouraging conversation.

8. Children

Do you and your sister-in-law both have three kids? Are they all girls? Or are you both boy moms? Kiddos are hilarious, innocent, and so full of adventure. Let the little ones create conversations that the big people simply can’t muster on their own. And if everyone’s kiddos can get along and show adults the way, even better.

9. Memories

Okay, so maybe you and your mother-in-law don’t have a relationship where you can create sound memories in the here and now. But what if you both enjoy discussing the nostalgia of your childhoods? You could both discuss how much you loved baking Christmas cookies with grandparents or helping Dad set up a bonfire for S’mores in the summer. If you have a hard time connecting with someone in the present, don’t be afraid to use the past.

10. Food

Humans enjoy food. There’s no way that food can’t be a positive conversation starter for family members you don’t necessarily get along with. Perhaps you both love cake pops. Share a new recipe! If you’ve discovered how to make those coffee shop refreshers at home, let them know how to save time and money! Food speaks.

11. Upcoming celebrations

If the present and the past aren’t producing much content for conversation, the future is always a good place to go. Maybe you and your aunt are both attending a family member’s upcoming baby shower. You can discuss how excited you are about the baby, what gifts you’re bringing, what you think they’ll name the little one, etc. This is a lighthearted conversation that’s so easy to expand on.

12. Illnesses

woman sipping tea from mug

Even if you don’t like your brother, you both have the same gene pool. In one way, this might simply mean you both have brown eyes. On the other hand, it might mean you both have similar physical or mental illnesses. My sister and I both struggle with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Though we are each other’s best friends aside from this mutual understanding, sharing our struggles with a common illness has forged an even deeper camaraderie.

13. Current events

Current events are great conversation starters for family members who don’t get along because they are displaced from the people in the room. You can talk about the freak airplane accident because it won’t involve anyone sitting at your table. You can discuss your thoughts on the funny cat video that went viral and got its own news interview because nobody in your family is part of that storyline.

14. Surprising facts

Many of my family members don’t know how much I love to travel, that I only like to wear gray clothes, or that I read WWII historical fiction like it’s going out of style. When you share unique, surprising, fun facts about yourself, it catches people off guard and lets the conversation take a new, fresh turn.

15. Faith

If you and your sister-in-law share the same religion, that’s a serious bond. You both view life through the same lens. And maybe you don’t have the same religion but you share similar moral and ethical convictions. Those are things that the two of you can discuss and build maybe not a bond, but a level of respect for each other.

Peyton Garland is a boy mama and Tennessee farmer who loves sharing her heart on OCD, postpartum life, and hope in the messy places.