Avoid arguing about who did what. Be specific about your request and say, for example, “Mom, from now on, can you please not comment on my clothes in front of other people?” If she says, “But when do I ever do that?” don’t take the bait: “I can give you examples, but the point is, from now on…” You are laying a foundation so the next time you can say, “This is what I’m talking about, Mom.” It may take a few rounds, but it’s an investment in a relationship that’s important. And remember: The other person is (probably) not trying to drive you crazy. Have compassion.
Rick Hanson, PhD, is a psychologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.