Background & Context:

My wife has two brothers, Bob and John. With Bob and his wife there is absolutely no problem. We help each other out when there is something to do and get along really well.

John and his wife, however is a different story. They are both narcissistic, egoistic, and enjoy making fun of and patronizing everybody else in the family (me, my wife, Bob and his wife and even the parents). John´s behavior seems to be getting worse, it is not improving.

It has been suggested that we sit down and discuss these differences. I have already told my wife that I don´t want to participate in this meeting for several reasons, none of which add any value to this situation.

It's safe to assume that I will never get along with John and his wife. The extent of my interactions with them involve saying hello and goodbye in passing, this is all I wish to maintain.

Expectations of me:

My wife has told me that during the sit down she will ask for my opinion if I don´t say anything myself, because she considers it important that I tell them how I see their behaviour and that I´m not happy with their personalities, as well as the way they treat people around them.

The Interpersonal Problems:

Firstly what persuasive or linguistic approaches can I take to convey that I do not want to attend the meeting or at the very least do not wish to contribute.

Secondly if I have to attend, in what way should I frame my distaste for John and his Wife's actions and personality that would come across as constructive rather than personal or aggressive, as I would at the very least prefer not to make the situation any worse than it is.

  • 6
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because we're not here to tell you what you should do. Please pick a goal/desired outcome you want to reach in this situation, and edit that into your question. We might be able to give you advise on how to reach that goal, if it's related to IPS.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Nov 30, 2017 at 10:17
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    @Tinkeringbell: Though I can agree that it needs to be asked more explicitly, the question seems to edge more towards how to placate the wife and brother A (preferable while also avoiding the meeting altogether), rather than how to make amends with brother B. OP's opinion about B seems rather conclusive (and I'd be the same way if I were him). This is on topic, if we're addressing how the OP can explain his reluctance to attend the meeting to his wife and brother A, using an IPS approach. But the OP should rephrase the title, and preferably the body to reflect that.
    – Flater
    Nov 30, 2017 at 10:20
  • @Flater: This is on topic, if we're addressing how the OP can explain his refusal to attend the meeting to his wife and brother A, using an IPS approach. That might indeed be a possible goal, but as the question is written now it leaves a lot to the imagination. If the OP can confirm that this is their goal, we can edit and reopen it. But if the 'What should I do' is meant to mean something else.... I'm usually all for immediately editing but in this case I'd like some feedback first :)
    – Tinkeringbell
    Nov 30, 2017 at 10:23
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    @Digitalsa1nt Voted to re-open.
    – user1856
    Nov 30, 2017 at 14:10
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    @Digitalsa1nt Great improvement, but I still see 2 big questions which require me to write 2 answers. Is it how can I talk to my wife about how I don't want to attend the meeting? Or: How can i give constructive feedback towards the other couple without being aggressive?
    – Kevin
    Nov 30, 2017 at 14:11

3 Answers 3


This is difficult, as your question currently focuses on how to do something that most people would not do. No matter how obnoxious your brother-in-law is, your wife will almost certainly love her sibling and this covers over a lot of shortcomings. Through conversation you can certainly convey to your wife your stance that you will not meet her brother, however you will likely never convince her that you are right.

Most behavioural psychology agrees that a person should be viewed separately from their behaviour. In fact it is a mark of maturity to be able to make such a distinction. For example you may hate the habit of smoking, but it shouldn't follow that you actively hate all people that smoke. If you felt that strongly about the habit and you otherwise liked a person, you'd hope that they quit.

You have made a judgement on your in-laws that "they are both narcissistic, egoistic, and enjoy making fun of and patronizing everybody.."

Given that your wife evidently loves her brother (I assume this because she wants you to fix your relationship with him) shouldn't you really be thinking that they are possibly decent people but for whatever reason have narcissistic, egotistic behaviour?

I understand that I must answer your question directly - how to persuade your wife you won't meet with him. As you have not given your reasons for concluding that he is all that you say his is, I find it impossible to give you the words to say beyond:

"I won't meet with him because I am of the opinion that he is narcissistic and egotistical, and I do not believe that meeting to discuss his behaviour will change that".

Unfortunately you will likely have to qualify such a statement with the evidence you have not provided to us. If I am honest, I don't think you will come out of this looking good. The brother and his wife will likely brush aside their behaviour as 'joking', and you will look like you take their 'jokes' too seriously.

I honestly believe the best course would be to have this meeting, to prepare yourself for it, and be resolved to calmly put their behaviour before them. If you accuse someone of being a narcissist then of course they will deny it. If your wife still sees a good person beneath the behaviour then you need to appeal to that person and show them how their behaviour makes you feel.


It's my opinion that both interpersonal situations as relating to the same contextual problem can be tackled using similar linguistic foundations. Whether they should though is another matter.

What persuasive or linguistic approaches can I take to convey that I do not want to attend the meeting or at the very least do not wish to contribute.

You know your wife better than we do. There is likely no guaranteed way to get you out of the meeting as obviously it's something that your family have deemed necessary. From an interpersonal perspective I think you should not try to get out of the meeting. Even if you can put across valid rational reasons to your wife, we all know that often family matters are not rational. In a situation like yours where evidently there's a sizable emotional investment and toll, being able to make rational arguments to get out of this meeting has well since passed.

what way should I frame my distaste that would come across as constructive rather than personal or aggressive

Now this is the real question isn't it. The problem is that when there's no perceived downside or penalty by the individual or individuals who are acting inappropriately (In this case, as you say "narcissistic, egoistic... patronizing"). Then there is no incentive for them to change.

So you need to think carefully about what they will lose if they continue to act the way they do. Make it abundantly clear that there is indeed something for them to lose, such as your loyalty, or the familial affections of your wife towards John her brother.

Highlight the importance of family. It's evident from your relationship with Bill that there are good examples of families supporting each other. It may also be an option to appeal to their expectations of their own families, such as Johns wife's relationship with her own relatives, find common ground where possible.

As difficult as it may seem, the primary objective is to not let emotions run too high, to remain level headed, and keep your tone general; neither aggressive or dismissive.


The fictitious situation

All six of you are in a meeting to decide how you should plan the celebration of your FIL retirement.


You are enthusiastic (depending your interest) to contribute ideas and ping-pong between 6 of you and you ignoring interactions of the John pair in this meeting.

This might convey that you are being a good sport in family celebrations/meetings but not so influenced/affected of John pair ideas but you are still participating within the group.

Try the same for important to trivial meetings. And slowly it might come out strong that unless John pair don't give in to their proper behaviour, they might not be welcomed by you and slowly with the rest of the pairs.

  • 1
    That might work for the fictitious situation, but it sounds like the upcoming meeting is specifically about John and his wife's behavior. How do you propose he "ignore [their] interactions" if that's the subject of discussion?
    – Em C
    Nov 30, 2017 at 16:32

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