As a rule, families are a wonderful thing. It usually means having someone who loves you unconditionally despite of your shortcomings—also, a place of comfort, refuge, and support. And yet, even in the most loving of families, there are bound to be conflicts. And when family conflicts remain unresolved, they can be a breeding ground for stress, anxiety, and frustration.
Some families tackle conflicts as if they are in an emotional boxing ring going round after round until someone is declared down and out. However, learning how to handle disputes respectfully and positively can provide an opportunity to strengthen the bond of those involved. So, let’s take a look at five strategies I believe will be helpful to you in constructively resolving conflict and keeping your family relationships strong and growing.
5 Strategies for working through family conflicts
1. Quick stress relief
Managing and relieving stress in the midst of conflict can be challenging. However, keeping your cool in the heat of the moment is critical to staying balanced, focused, and in control of yourself. When you lose control, you become overwhelmed and unable to respond healthily and constructively.
One proven way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. For example, try listening to relaxing music or having a calming fragrance nearby to smell. Using this self-soothing technique is a simple way of calming yourself whenever and wherever you happen to be without the aid of anyone else.
Being able to remain calm during family conflicts will help you tune into your feelings and enable you to hear what others are saying.
2. Emotional awareness
Being in touch with your feelings sounds simple enough, but many people ignore or try to suppress distressing emotions such as sadness, anger, and fear. However, being connected to these emotions is necessary to handling conflict. To improve your emotional awareness, start by:
- Paying attention to what you are feeling right now.
- Name your emotions.
- Without judgment or trying to fix anything, observe your feelings a few times per day.
- Allow yourself to feel the emotions in your body.
- Determine what triggered the emotion.
- Take notice of any recurring patterns.
When you don’t know how or why you feel a certain way, it’s hard to communicate effectively or work through disagreements.
3. Control your emotions and behavior
Approach the conflict with the right attitude. Neither a high and mighty attitude nor an inferior (being a pushover) approach will net you good results.
Be open and honest, but remain respectful. Communicate your needs without threats, manipulation, deception, or attempts at punishing the other person.
Mutual trust and respect is a vital core issue in healthy family relationships.
4. Pay attention to non-verbal communication
Sometimes, the most important information exchanged during family conflicts is communicated non-verbally, and if you have a teenager, you definitely know what I mean.
We’ve all had those conversations with someone where we hear their words, but the words aren’t lining up with their facial expressions or body movement.
When you can pick up on what is being both ‘felt’ and ‘said,’ you can connect more deeply to your own needs and emotions as well as to those of other people.
“Listening” this way often helps you figure out what the other person is really trying to say. And responding in a calm tone of voice, a reassuring touch, or a concerned facial expression, goes a long way toward calming a tense exchange.
5. Use humor
Once you have your emotions under control, your capacity for joy, pleasure, and playfulness is set free. And using humor is an excellent tool in managing family conflicts and reducing stress.
By communicating humorously, you can get your point across without making the other person defensive, which helps resolve conflicts. However, a word of caution here; always make sure you are laughing ‘with’ the other party and not ‘at’ them. That is, unless you want to start a whole new round of conflicts. On the other hand, if used respectfully, a little playful humor can promptly turn conflict and tension into an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.
The best way to resolve any problem in the human world is for all sides to sit down and talk.— Dalai Lama
Most people want to resolve their family conflicts healthily, but never learned the skills to do so for various reasons. And while the concept of “healthy conflict resolution” is easy to understand intellectually, it is not as easy to apply and use consistently. However, it can become easier once the skills and trust are developed.
I believe these five strategies I’ve listed above will be most helpful to you in resolving family conflicts with less stress. However, another great way to learn how to manage stress is to work with an anxiety coach through Breakthrough coaching. They can help you discover and master new techniques to handle stress in any situation.
Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. The easiest way to start taking control of your anxiety is to take the FREE 5-Day Anxiety Detox Challenge. If you would like more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or make an appointment online. Together, let’s work on strategies to manage the stress you feel when family conflicts arise. I’m confident, the more you practice these skills the more confident you will become in resolving family differences and building a stronger and rewarding bond with those you love.