Visiting family members and friends are often delightful, especially when they have traveled from far away to be with you. Many houseguests are considerate and helpful, but some can be annoying, rude or imposing. It is challenging to approach rude houseguests about your feelings when you want to maintain a positive relationship with them. Be thoughtful in your communication, clear with your needs and loving in your tone to establish healthy boundaries while preserving the relationship you value.
Define your grievances clearly before you approach your houseguests. Write down the things that are bothering you about their stay. Sometimes houseguests disregard family routines, create a mess, eat all the food in the house, refuse to pay their way or ignore household rules regarding conduct. Frame the problems on paper so that you are clear about what you need to address.
Write down what you want to say to your guests. When appropriate, begin by thanking them for traveling a long distance in order to spend time with you. Frame the problem in the first-person, using "I" statements instead of blaming statements. Instead of saying, "You are so rude to stay up until the wee hours of the morning when my children are trying to sleep," say, "I am feeling tired and frustrated that my children are not getting enough sleep; and I am worried that they are going to get sick. Let's work together to go to bed earlier and keep the noise down." Include a statement of love and care for the other person, if that is how you feel. You could say, "I really love you, and I think these adjustments will help us to better enjoy our time together."
Practice confronting your guests verbally with a neutral person. This allows you to hear how you sound before you actually confront your friends or family members; and the neutral person can give you feedback on your approach. This dry run gives you the opportunity to make communication mistakes and hear the strength of your emotions before you direct those emotions at your guests. It might take two or three practice runs to become comfortable and confident in conveying your thoughts and emotions in a respectful, clear manner.
Approach your guests regarding their behavior. Choose a time when you can be relaxed and communicate the way you did in your practice runs. After you share your concerns and possible solutions, actively listen to your guests' responses. They will likely be willing to change their behaviors and work with you to ensure the rest of the visit is more pleasant. If they disregard your needs, boundaries or emotions, consider shortening their visit, asking them to leave or helping them move to a hotel for the duration of the visit.
Learn from your mistakes. Practice setting clear boundaries with houseguests in the future. Communicate in advance. Be clear about whether you are able to accept houseguests and how long they are allowed to stay. Make sure people know about any events that are happening during their stay and that they have a good idea about your family's routines. If you expect them to pitch in with expenses, let your houseguests know ahead of time. Good advance communication is sure to prevent most problems with houseguests and ensure that everyone is able to enjoy being together.
- The Family Coordinator: Healthy Family Systems
- Research in Nursing and Health: Setting boundaries: A strategy for precarious ordering of women's caring demands
- Social Psychology: Referent Role and Styles of Handling Interpersonal Conflict
- University of Wisconsin, Madison: 8 Steps for Conflict Resolution
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