Being part of a family can bring various benefits, such as love, security, support, and more, although, sometimes, there can also be conflict.
It’s common for family members to fall out or tensions to arise. And while disagreements are perfectly normal, when conflicts go unresolved or escalate, they can become a significant cause of stress.
Family conflicts can be particularly distressing because they are so deeply personal. You may feel tied to your family and unable to distance yourself or let go.
If conflicts have become a problem in your family and you’re struggling to find ways to resolve them, this article will provide nine essential tips that could help.
But before we show you how to deal with family conflicts, let’s first take a quick look at some of the most common causes.
Causes of Family Conflict
Family conflicts can often arise when any of the following occur:
- A loss or breach of trust
- Any form of abuse (verbal, physical, sexual, etc.) or harsh behavior
- Differences in expectations
A family conflict could involve two people, the whole family, or anything in between. Here are some of the most common situations that may cause family conflict:
- After the birth of a baby
- When a child becomes a teenager
- When a teenager becomes an adult
- When a couple moves in together
- During or after divorce or separation
- When a partner spends a lot of time away from home due to work
- Financial issues
- Issues within a family run business
How to Resolve Family Conflicts
Here are nine essential tips for navigating family conflicts and improving your communication skills.
1. Accept What You Can and Can’t Control
No matter how much you may want to, you cannot control the behavior of others, but you can control how you respond. Think about the conflicts you’ve had in the past and how you reacted, and what the outcomes were. If the results weren’t what you wanted, try responding a different way next time, and hopefully, it will have a more positive effect. Also, by changing how you respond, you become less predictable, making it harder for others to trigger or manipulate you into conflict.
2. Let Any Anger Subside
It’s better to let things calm down first before trying to resolve a conflict so that you can have a rational and constructive conversation. Try talking in a calm tone and put any emotions aside. If you try to resolve a conflict while people are angry and lashing out, it will usually fail and worsen relations further. Remember, the goal here is not to win an argument but to find a peaceful resolution.
3. Try to Understand Other Family Member’s Perspectives
It’s important to give other family members a chance to express their views without being interrupted, and you should also request an opportunity to do the same. Listen carefully, understand things from others’ perspectives, and then identify things you could do differently to help resolve the conflict. Listening to others and having empathy is a way to be fair and gain valuable insights; it’s not about submitting or caving to the demands of others.
4. Understand How It Affects the Whole Family
It’s easy to get caught up in a conflict without realizing how much it’s affecting those around you. For example, when parents argue, children can often pick up on their stress and mood changes, even if they try to hide it from them. However, when the family members involved in a conflict understand how it’s hurting the rest of the family, they’re more likely to be open to finding a resolution.
5. Use “I” instead of “You”
When you’re attempting to resolve a conflict, if you try to address the problem by saying “you…” it can sound like an accusation, which will trigger a defensive response and make it harder to connect. However, if you use “I” statements and talk about how you feel, it’s less likely to trigger their defenses while still highlighting any critical issues you need to work through.
6. Recognize that Some Issues Aren’t Worth Fighting Over
Not every issue is worth fighting over. For example, if your partner or kids did something trivial that bothered you, such as not putting the bins out, consider whether it’s worth getting into an argument over. Remember, accidents can happen, people can forget, and not everything is done to hurt you intentionally. However, this doesn’t mean you should tolerate abusive behavior, and you have the right to be concerned if you often moderate yourself due to fear of other family members.
7. Try Reaching out Rather than Withdrawing
If you see other family members as a threat, you may withdraw as a way to protect yourself. However, isolating yourself can prolong the friction between you and makes it harder to resolve the conflict. So, when you feel like withdrawing, try being the bigger person and reaching out instead. Taking a risk and making the first move can often pay off as it gives you and other family members a chance to resolve things and reconnect.
8. Seek Professional Help and Advice if Needed
For many people, family is a major part of their lives, and they consider it worth investing in to get it right. Seeking impartial advice and the help of an expert can help you and your family work through any challenging issues effectively. Whether it’s couples counseling to help save a romantic relationship or family therapy to address fighting between siblings, there are services available for all types of family conflict.
9. Minimize or End Contact Completely if You Must
While it often pays to reach out rather than withdraw, some conflicts are simply unresolvable, and you’re better off minimizing or ending contact entirely. This applies particularly to situations where abuse has occurred, and you expect it could continue in the future. Ending contact is usually the last option, but it’s worth considering if you or a loved one’s health and well-being are at risk.
While family conflicts can cause considerable distress and anxiety, it’s often possible to find a peaceful resolution if you follow some of the tips above. Remember to let things cool off first and also try to consider other family member’s perspectives. Improving your conflict resolution skills is a worthwhile endeavor that could serve you in many areas of your life.
If you feel it’s just not possible to resolve a family conflict and need additional support, seeking the help of a professional is usually a wise choice. Here at Calmerry, our online therapists are ready to work with you and your family to resolve any problems you have. We use only evidence-based approaches, and all of our client services are completely private and confidential.