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Ask Dr. Jeannie: "Help! My Family Member Is Lashing Out. What Can I Do"?

Today I’m sharing a great question I received from a young woman recently. She writes:

“My family member has been lashing out. He doesn’t know how to communicate effectively without getting angry. Also, it seems he lacks self accountability when it comes down to his life choices. Do you have any suggestions”?

I found this to be a very relatable issue, and am sharing my response in hopes that others may find benefit from it too.

1. Accept that you cannot change or “fix” your family member. We can only change ourselves, and that’s okay! This is my most important suggestion. Trying to fix or change another person will only leave you frustrated. Also, remember that their anger and difficulty with communication is not your fault. We are all responsible for our own actions, not the actions of other adults.

2. Take good care of yourself first. Do things that support your own physical and mental health like exercise, getting enough sleep, eating well, prayer, hobbies you enjoy, and the company of people who support you. It may not seem relevant to take care of yourself in this situation, but you will be better equipped to deal with your family member if you are feeling your best. We can’t pour from an empty cup!

3. Don’t participate in arguments that are disrespectful, aggressive or unproductive. Stay calm and talk to your family member the way you’d want them to talk to you. If they cannot communicate calmly, invite them to talk to you at another time when they are less upset and then end the conversation. You can still love your family member while setting healthy boundaries for your relationship with them.

4. If your family member wants help, direct them to a local counselor, pastor, or therapist for professional help. They are likely dealing with underlying issues that should be managed with the assistance of a professional. Remember, they have to want and accept help, for help to work.

5. If you need more tips on how you can more effectively communicate with and understand your family member, check out this article I wrote (linked here). It talks about communicating well with loved ones, and though the article is focused on Coronavirus conversations, it can be applied to any conversation you may need to have with your family member.

Lastly, while this question and response are not explicitly about domestic violence (defined here), if you are a victim of any type of domestic violence or abuse, please know that help is available by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or visiting their website at

You've Got This!

Dr. Jeannie

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition or issue.

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