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It's About Getting Through It Together: How to Communicate Your Way out of Family Conflicts

How many of you have had fights with your family members before? If you’re like most people, then you should have raised your hand faster than anything! Family arguments are nothing new and have been happening as long as there have been families. These can be caused by any number of things. These might include differing opinions among family members about a big issue, kids wanting more independence than parents want to give them, big changes in the family like divorce or the birth of a new baby, and when you just misunderstand each other and jump to conclusions.

No matter what the root cause of the conflict is, it’s essential that every family works through whatever conflict they’re going through family counseling. This is important so that you can move forward together and not let any resentment stay throughout the years. We all know that it’s no good to hold grunges against another person or people. That’s especially true when it comes to your family members!

In the below article, you’ll find a comprehensive how-to guide of solving these family conflicts without the help of a counselor. Keep reading to learn more and get these conflicts solved ASAP!

Don’t react! Respond instead.

First off, let’s have a little bit of an update on your science knowledge. Do you remember learning about your “flight or fight” response in school? Well, if you remember anything, then you know that this response is activated when you’re in dangerous or uncomfortable situations. The reptilian part of your brain (the amygdala) is activated and your first response in these situations is to fight off the danger or to flee away from it.[1]

This same response is activated when it comes to your family conflicts. Whenever a big argument starts up, your first response is going to be to retreat from the fight or to yell back at whichever family member is speaking. This is no good if you want to actually solve the conflict. It’s much better if you take a breath and respond carefully to the argument, rather than reacting with your natural response.

For example, if you’re a teenager and your parent is telling you that you’re not getting an allowance anymore, instead of yelling at your parents, take a breather and get to the bottom as to why they’re doing that. Respond, don’t react.

Understand how you might respond under stress.

Next up, you should take the proper steps to actually understanding what your fight or flight response might look like. This is especially necessary if you’ve been feeling extra stress lately, which can cause these family conflicts. A stressed mind with improper sleep cannot think positively and many times is the cause for big conflicts for petty issues. Exercise, meditation, and proper sleep helps move our minds and thoughts in positive direction.[2] Below are the things you should keep in mind if you’re feeling stressed and you feel your fight or flight response coming on:

  • Denial: You might believe that if you don’t think about the problem, that it’s going to go away or disappear. You might deny the entire problem or you might deny your anxiety about the problem by being extra aggressive and confrontational.
  • Avoidance: You’re aware that the problem exists and is real, but you don’t want to deal with it. So, you avoid it in whatever way is possible.
  • Projection: You deny your own faults by projecting those faults onto somebody else in the family.
  • Displacement: You change the entire topic of the argument to some unrelated topic that’s related to the family member who you’re angry with.
  • Escalation: You become over-dramatic and completely blow up the conflict out of proportion.

Listen your way out of conflicts.

The next step towards solving this family conflict is all about listening.[3] Sure, your first response is going to be to respond to what the other family member is saying and get your point across. But before you respond, understand that an important part of any response is to listen to the other party. Spend a moment in their shoes to understand why exactly he or she is saying these things and what might be making him or her say them.

For example, if you’re that teenager who’s getting his allowance taken away from him, it might be because you didn’t do all of your chores that you should have. Or your parents are facing some financial trouble. Be sure to listen to what your family members are saying and build some empathy.[4]

Build up constructive discontent.

Next up, we have a concept that you might not have heard so much about – constructive discontent. Basically, this is your ability to stay grounded and focused on your larger objectives during a family conflict. Even though you should listen to what your family is saying, there are some larger goals that you have, as well. This is something that you have got to practice over-time, but if you do, you will be able to use these emotions to your advantage, rather than being held hostage by what you want.

Always focus on the shared objective of the family.

On top of your overall goals, you should understand that your family has plenty of shared objectives. When you’re having a big conflict, always start back again at the center of the table. What are the big goals of the entire family, not just each individual person? Rather than continuously thinking about the differences that separate your arguments, remember what you all are fighting for.

If you’re like most families, then this goal is to love each other and bring each other up, rather than knocking each other down. When you remember this during a conflict, it’s going to be much easier to resolve and it won’t devolve into a bunch of yelling matches.

Validate other’s opinions and respect their side.

One of the most important things in solving family conflicts is listening to the other side’s opinion, as we have mentioned. After you have heard your family member out, then it’s time to validate. Validation is a crucial part of this process, as it lets other family members know that you’ve heard their opinion and respect their side.[5]

Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to agree with their argument! You just audibly tell them that you understand where they’re coming from, but respectfully disagree. From there, you can frame your argument as an alternative to their opinion and explain to them how your alternative can benefit everyone’s shared goals in the family. This cooperation is much more effective than simply yelling back and forth.

Agree and resolve the conflict.

Lastly, you shouldn’t leave any stone unturned when you’re wrapping up the family conflict. When everyone has agreed on a common solution, then make sure that everyone is going to abide by that agreement and understands everything about it. Going back to the teenager and the allowance scenario, maybe everyone comes to the agreement that the allowance should just be lowered, rather than taken away entirely. However…

  • Does everyone know how long that will be for?
  • What is the amount of the allowance will be taken down to?
  • What are the core reasons for this deduction?

It could even be good if you write all of this down onto a piece of paper that’s hanging on the fridge. When there’s a physical representation of the agreement, it’s more likely to be followed by everyone involved in the family conflict.

Family conflicts are nothing new. They’ve happened for as long as there have been families and they’re not going anywhere, any time soon. However, if you want your family to be healthy and happy, you can’t just ignore these conflicts. Use the above how-to guide to bring your family through this conflict and come out the other side better than ever before.

Reference

[1] The Brain From Top To Bottom: The Amygdala and Its Allies
[2] Fashion Furniture Rental: Why Sleep Matters?
[3] Business Insider: How to Really Listen to Others?
[4] Creating Happiness: 10 Formulae to Live a Happy Life
[5] Psychology Today: Understanding Validation: A Way to Communicate Acceptance

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