Family Feud

By Doug Mayberry

November 25, 2019 4 min read

Q: I've never gotten along with my brother-in-law, which makes family gatherings very awkward. It's especially strange, as I usually can get along with just about anyone.

No matter what I say, he finds reasons to correct me. His corrections are usually minor and sometimes completely wrong. It seems like he's compelled to have the last word.

I leave from every family holiday with a sour taste in my mouth and have come to dread seeing my sister because of him.

Even with him having been a part of my life for several decades, I still haven't found a way to deal with him.

How can I stop him from always getting on my nerves?

A: Instead of engaging, diffuse the situation.

Your control over the situation is limited to your own response. Don't give him the reaction he wants. Even though bantering back is a natural reaction, choose to avoid confrontation.

This pattern of behavior doesn't have anything to do with you. The fact that your brother-in-law is continually correcting you is his problem. He likely does the same thing to others.

Correcting people is about maintaining control of a situation. By putting you down, he's able to feel more socially dominant. He's not going to change his long-standing provocations.

When he corrects you, conceal your irritation from both your words and tone of voice. Not getting a reaction will put him off-balance.

Instead of backing down or getting annoyed, give an unexpected response. A skeptical but not contradicting look shows that you're not convinced, without being rude. Another option is using a stock reply. I recommend "Well, there you go." It says nothing and neither agrees nor contradicts.

If you fail to provide a reaction, your brother-in-law is likely to move on to another target. Patience and consistency will break the cycle. — Emma, Doug's granddaughter


Q: My home is full of piles and piles of paperwork from the last year.

My family has offered to help, but I don't know where to start. Just looking at all the stuff I have is overwhelming.

Last tax season was a major problem. I wasn't able to find a bunch of documents, and it caused a huge hassle. I ended up filing for an extension and needed a lot of help from my accountant.

What's the best way to address a giant mess of paperwork?

A: Start now and create a system that will prevent a future backlog.

Don't deal with files individually. Instead, collect all your paperwork together and sort it into smaller piles.

It's much easier to deal with similar files together, rather than switching tasks. Creating these smaller piles will help you use your time more effectively.

Even with a system, working on a backlog is exhausting. Accept the help being offered, and make good use of it. Tell your family members your filing plan, and they can help it go quicker.

Once you have a system, stick to it. It's far easier to maintain a system than make a new one. — Doug

Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: myrfa at Pixabay

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