I have a family member, let's call him Nathan, who is extremely good at deflecting criticism, blaming everyone else or roping in unrelated stuff to muddy a discussion about something uncomfortable to him. There may be narcissistic traits involved, though I'm not qualified to make a diagnosis, I'm only using the label because it describes his behaviour fairly well.

Unfortunately, I find myself in a situation where I must demand certain actions from this person, or several family members will suffer negative consequences (including me and him). These actions are either things he doesn't like doing and has avoided in the past (responsibilities) or things he absolutely must stop doing, if possible immediately (habits). Some of these things are financial (he's handling money badly and its beginning to affect family members) some of them are things that other people then need to fix for him or help him resolve, some are addictive behaviour (social media and gambling, which also affects the financial part). That's as much as I'm willing to go into detail in public.

So for any normal guy, I'd say Nathan needs a stern talking to, get his head screwed on right, until he sees the problem and agrees to fix it, then we can talk about specific steps to take and how to monitor them.

Past experience with Nathan has taught me that doesn't work with him and more likely I'll end up on the list of people to blame for his problems. I also know that he can give promises and then break them, so a simple "ok, I'll do X" is basically a coin toss and not good enough.

Am I missing something? Is there a way to be diplomatic and non-confrontational while also being very clear that this isn't just some advise he can maybe consider if he finds a moment, or not, as he wishes? Is there a method to get someone who quite often doesn't keep (or pretend to remember) his promises into a somewhat reliable agreement?

Assume that I'm alone with the situation. Other people affected are currently handling their own crisis, so I can't count on them. But said other crisis has also pushed this to the point where Nathan's destructive behaviour threatens to do even more damage.

  • You say that Nathan needs to change or he will create negative consequences not only for himself, but also for others. Has this always been like that in the past? Or was there a point where Nathan's behavior only created negative consequences for Nathan? If so, has Nathan ever been 'allowed' to just suffer negative consequences?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Mar 15 at 15:07
  • @Tinkeringbell to my knowledge, Nathan has never had to bear the full burden of consequences for his actions, he always managed to find someone to help him out or to shift the blame elsewhere. But that's only AFAIK.
    – Tom
    Mar 15 at 20:31
  • Can you bypass Nathan and discuss the problems with other people who are affected? Changing Nathan might be the most satisfying approach but it may not be possible.
    – DaveG
    Mar 17 at 3:36
  • @DaveG from the lack of answers, I fear that to be the case. But no, I can't. His actions are causing problems for all around him and it has already taken too much energy and money from us to compensate for it. If he were just a friend, I'd simply cut off contact and let him be. But family is a different matter.
    – Tom
    Mar 17 at 6:38
  • You're not willing to cut off contact, which is understandable. But is there any way for you to structure future contact in such a way that you add a buffer between Nathan, the consequences of his bad decisions, and you? E.g. say you were giving (loaning) him money or buying him groceries, but instead of using that to work towards financial stability Nathan just keeps buying unnecessary luxuries and making more debts... would you be willing/able to say 'no more money/groceries ever again for you Nathan'? So that you won't have financial troubles yourself just because of the way Nathan behaves?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Mar 18 at 13:38


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