No family goes through life without issues. Knowing how to resolve family conflict is a key skill that can help minimize some of your problems and maximize positive communication.
Like many things that follow us into adulthood, your experience in learning to deal with conflict when you were young–for example, what you observed about how your original family dealt with conflict–can play a big role in what you bring to the table with your partner and children. And they, because of their unique experiences and personalities, may have a different approach than you do. So what can you do to enhance your loved ones’ ability to resolve family conflict to ensure that everyone’s voice will be heard?
One suggestion is to design a conflict resolution process you all agree to use when issues erupt. Do this as a family project when everyone is calm. What are some of the elements you might incorporate into your process? Body language and voice tone are key. Yelling, crossed arms, rolling eyes, name-calling–these actions aren’t going to demonstrate that your family members want work together in a positive manner. Agree that in your process, everyone will adopt a reasonable tone of voice. Name-calling will not be tolerated because it only serves to make others angry and defensive. Everyone will agree to use non-confrontational body language, because we all know what crossed arms and rolling eyes mean. If people are upset to the point where language and body language issues can’t be controlled, you’ll agree to defer the discussion until everyone is calmer.
And speaking of language, make a “rule” in your process that people will try to use “I” statements, rather than “you” statements, which can sound quite accusatory. For example, you can present your opinion by saying, “I would like to you to clean your room once a week,” rather than, “Your room is always messy and you need to clean it once a week.” Or, “I would like you to let me know when you’re going to be home,” rather than, “You’re always late so I’m constantly worrying about you.” Try to use specific language to express your “I” statements and stay away from words like “always” and “never.”
Once you’ve established your process, your family can use it when it’s needed to resolve family conflict. While there will be times you’ll need to do that, family members can also attempt to head things off at the pass by resolving issues before they turn into problems. You’ll know and recognize when family members are about to be “triggered.” Everyone knows how to push each other’s buttons, so try to communicate on these issues before they spiral out of control. If everyone’s mad, you won’t be able to “hear” each other and nothing’s going to get resolved.
No matter how tempting it may be, avoiding conflicts can lead to bigger issues down the road when grievances fester over a long period of time. So develop a strategy that works to resolve family conflict in your home.
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