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A close relative was recently engaged to this very sweet and friendly woman (aged 24) who happens to have a rather bad trait. She's very quick to pigeonhole people. Meaning she places people in categories without fully getting to know them or acknowledging all their qualities. And then proceeds to treat them with that misconception.

I know this person for about two months and didn't have much contact with her until recently since my wife will be in charge of wedding preparations. I was flabbergasted last night when I overheard some of her conversation with her friends during a family gathering.

A couple of examples regarding her behavior:

  • The name of a good friend of my nephew came up as being maid of honor. Her reasoning for saying no was that she dressed provocatively, thus she will steal her husband. Preventing said friend from being part of something wonderful in her friend's life.
  • Another occasion was regarding another relative who's in his teens and not that social. My nephew wanted to "hire" him to rearrange his library but the fiancee declined because he would access have to their bedroom and go through her things. Although she never really interacted with this boy who happens to be this kind and respectful person.

There were several racist remarks, comments about how people dressed (thus judging their financial situation) but not sure if these classify as pigeonholing.

Some of her comments got back to the people she was talking about, like the friend of my nephew's boyfriend overheard and told her - which made her leave the party. The teen boy was also a perv from his other cousins as a joke but it still hurt him. Similar situations happened all around.

I discussed it briefly with a couple of family members and we're pretty much sure that she doesn't know that she's doing it or what she's doing is hurting others.

I caught up with my nephew the next day over coffee and discussed the issue with him, not talking about specifics but generally asking if he has noticed his fiancee being quick to judge people, hold unrealistic images of them in her head and act upon those assumptions. Something that he denied but from his body language, I realized that rung a bell.

For that reason, I decided to go to the source of the problem and talk to the fiancee. I realize I can't change/make her change this trait of her personality. But I would like to ask/achieve her being a bit discreet about it and not discuss things like that in a family gathering.

How can I approach her and let her know that what she's doing is hurting her relationship with others and especially me, as her soon-to-be family? How do I handle her if she keeps doing this at family gatherings?

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You can't change other people. You can offer advice but if they did not ask for it I'd give it worse then 50% chance that she will actually listen to your advice.

They best way to encourage some one to change is not to tell them to change but rather to refuse to engage in the behavior that you find distasteful.

That said you still need to tell her that her behavior is harmful to others, but it will be most effective if you tell this to her when she actually starts gossiping about someone.

So for example your at a family gathering and you hear the woman in question say something negative/ill-informed/pigeonholing about a person in the family. You could:

  1. Walk away from the conversation.

  2. Tell her "We should not gossip about this person I love them and they are a wonderful person." and then walk away

  3. Tell her "We should not gossip about this person I love them and they are a wonderful person." and then try to change the subject.

  4. Tell her "you know that person has this really wonderful personality trait be specific I'm so glad they are in the family.

I prefer 3 and 4 the best. 4 is especially useful because you are counter acting her negativity with positive actions. It shows her an example of how to behave correctly as well as building up the person you are talking about.

Encourage your other family members to give her the same treatment. If the majority of your family is consistent in refusing to gossip with her, she will learn to modify her behavior or she will stop coming to family gatherings.

Good luck!

  • 1
    Great answer. Young people do this from time to time, it's part of personal growth. After being called out on it, or receiving the same treatment, they usually start to become more reflective about when they do it. I'm not mean enough to give someone a taste of their own medicine, but someone will and that will probably start a change, especially if it happens enough. – FalseHooHa Oct 19 '17 at 17:21
  • Heads-up: The question has been edited + reopened. If you want to, please review your answer to see if it is still applicable & addressing all the points in the question. – Tinkeringbell Oct 26 '17 at 11:56
4

If you have talked to your nephew who was unable (or didn't want) to acknowledge the situation and then talk to the fiancee you will likely create a rift with your nephew. I would let/encourage someone that is offended talk to your nephew.

If you are there when she says something you could say something like.

That narrow characterization is not really fair. There is a lot more to them.

  • Heads-up: The question has been edited + reopened. If you want to, please review your answer to see if it is still applicable & addressing all the points in the question. – Tinkeringbell Oct 26 '17 at 11:57
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This sounds like it's an issue of mindset, and it's worth exploring WHY someone would have an issue in this area.

It's something every human brain does, to some extent, and it is valuable and necessary to categorize information to make it more easily stored and sorted.

Everyone pigeonholes everyone all of the time. It's the easiest and most natural reaction, and it takes conscious effort to fight it. And it HAS to be actively fought. This mindset, like many others, is ingrained to the point of being assimilated into a personality.

Sorry for the wordy preamble, but I wanted to preface my next point with some arguments:

This will not be ONE conversation

This will have to be an active effort by several people from whom she can accept some mild criticism. It doesn't have to, and shouldn't, be something dramatic, but it should be consistent. When you catch her doing this, say something casual like

Aw come on, there's more to him/her than that...

possibly followed up with something you know about the person. This can help to make the subject feel more real to your soon-to-be relative-in-law, as well as drawing her attention to the problem. If she's a conscientious person whose decent at picking up on social cues, this can do wonders over time. If she has difficulty picking up on social cues, a friendly and direct non-critical conversation is the way to go.

Good luck!

  • Heads-up: The question has been edited + reopened. If you want to, please review your answer to see if it is still applicable & addressing all the points in the question. – Tinkeringbell Oct 26 '17 at 11:57

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