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

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!

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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

More by this author

Maya Levine

Passionate Writer & Researcher

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Last Updated on October 20, 2020

Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

Can People Change When Changing Is So Difficult?

Hope is not a strategy when it comes to change. Commitment is what is needed to make real change happen. Can people change? Absolutely, but exchanging your excuses for commitment is necessary to get started.

Human nature leans toward habits, which can become ingrained over the years, but that doesn’t mean habits can be undone.

The good news is that your personality and behaviors can be changed, but it is up to you. Below are some tips to help you get started with change.

1. Figure out What You Need to Change

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of something you would like to change. That’s great! The first step toward change is acknowledging that you have something you need to change.

Look at the repeated problems in your life, the issues that seem to come up time and time again. Do you keep gravitating toward the wrong relationships, but you blame the people you are choosing, rather than looking at your problem in the selection process?

Do you jump from one job to another, yet blame co-workers and bosses, rather than look at what you may be doing to cause problems and dissatisfaction on the job?

We are creatures of habit, so look at the negative patterns in your life. Then, look inside to see what’s causing these repeated life problems to occur. If you can’t figure it out on your own, consider going to a counselor for better understanding. Once you recognize the area that requires change, you can move to the next step.

2. Believe That Change Is Indeed Possible

There are people out there who believe that personality is unchangeable. When confronted with their problem, such as constant negativity, they lash back with “that’s just who I am.” It may be who you are, but does it need to be?

Change in personality and behaviors is possible. Nobody stays the same from one year to the next, let alone across a decade, so why not move change in the direction that is best for you? Be proactive about the change you want in your life, including the belief that change can occur.

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Look for success stories and people who have changed and done what you so deeply desire to do. Seeing that others have been where you have are and have accomplished the change you desire will help you in your process to accomplish that change.

3. List the Benefits of This Change

In order for people to change, they need to buy into the premise that the change is necessary for their betterment. For example, maybe your goal is to be more productive at work. There are many benefits that could come from this, including:

  • Getting more done in a shorter amount of time.
  • Having more time for your family.
  • Getting a promotion
  • Being liked and appreciated by your boss.
  • Being part of the success of the company.

One of the best ways to help yourself stick to the commitment of change is to make a list of the benefits that the change will bring in your life. Make one list of the benefits for your life and another for your loved ones. Recognizing the full spectrum of benefits, including how your change will affect those closest to you, will help you stick with the process of change.

When you have moments of weakness, or fail on a particular day or time, then getting back on track becomes easier when you review your list on a regular basis. Posting your “benefits of change” list somewhere where you see it often, such as a bathroom mirror, will help you be reminded of why you are doing what you are doing.

4. Make a Real Commitment to Change

Make a commitment to the time frame needed for the change to happen. If you want to lose 50 lbs., then set out a realistic plan of a few pounds per week and a timeline that reflects those goals.

It will take you a lot longer than a month, but setting realistic goals will help you stick to your commitment. Change happens one day at a time. It is not immediate, but over the course of time because of your dedication and commitment to the process.

It also helps if you make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.[1]

People can change using SMART goals

    An example of this would be a person who wants to become an active runner so they can tackle a half marathon. The first step would be to research what other people have done for training plans to achieve this goal.

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    Runners World lays out specifics for a beginner to train for a half marathon: “Target the Long Run: Every other week, increase your long run by 1.5 miles until you’re run/walking 13 to 14 miles. On alternate weeks, keep your long run to no longer than three miles. Your longest long run should fall two weeks before your half-marathon. Plan to take about 15 weeks to prepare for the big day.”[2]

    These kinds of specificities will help you create a personalized plan that is achievable and time-bound.

    You can learn more about writing SMART goals here.

    5. Create a Plan of Attack

    You need a set of steps outlined to succeed. This is why 12-step programs are so successful. You can’t simply walk into a meeting and be cured and changed. You need to mentally process the change in order for the change to be lasting and effective.

    Create a plan for your change. Be realistic and investigate what other people have done to change.

    For example, if you are dealing with anxiety and want to change that, then seek out therapy methods to address your problem. Stick with the therapy plan until your change process is complete. Simply hoping the anxiety will someday go away is not a plan.

    6. Commit to Action

    It is wonderful to set a goal for change and to write it down, but if you don’t act, then your mental commitment means nothing. There is no actual commitment unless action follows. To best kick start our change, the key is to act now[3].

    For example, if you committed to lose 50lbs, then now is the time to go join a gym, hire a trainer, and walk into a weight loss clinic to get support. We can make up our mind to be determined to change, but if action does not follow soon thereafter, then you will likely fail.

    If you wait until later that week, you will get caught up in doing your daily routine, things for works, taking care of others, or whatever it may be; there will be distractions that will derail you from taking action later. There is no better time to take action than when you make the decision to change.

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    For example, if you decide you want to finally write that book that is in your mind, but you don’t have a working laptop, then go and get a laptop today. Then, set aside an hour each day after work (and on your calendar) so that you can write. Instead of going out with friends after work, you are committing to achieve this goal, and you have time set aside to make that goal happen.

    7. Find a Support System

    When people want to change, finding a support system is key. A great way to find support is through group therapy or support groups. If you have a substance abuse issue, for example, you can find groups that specialize is supporting you through recovery and change.

    If you prefer to find support in the comfort of your own home, then you can look for online support forums and Facebook groups that deal with whatever change you are looking to pursue.

    Your ability to be successful in change is dependent on your ability to dive in; support systems help you with the initial dive and staying committed thereafter. and will help you stay committed to the process. Don’t underestimate the power you have by partnering with others who are seeking the same change.

    8. Get Uncomfortable

    Change should be uncomfortable. You are entering new territory and stepping out of your comfort zone. Your mind and past habits will be resistant to the change, as it is uncomfortable and difficult.

    If you give up because of the discomfort, then you are destined to fail in your pursuit of change. Embrace the discomfort associated with change and recognize that it puts you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

    9. Stick to the Plan

    When people decide to change, sticking to it is difficult. If you get derailed from your plan, don’t berate yourself. Instead, allow yourself some margin of error and then get back on track.

    You can’t expect to go on a diet without splurging sometimes. The key is “sometimes.” The sooner you get back on track, the more successful you will be in accomplishing your change goals.

    Other researchers on the topic of change believe this process is about dedication and commitment to the change desired in our day to day lives, as Douglas LaBier from the Huffington Post so aptly stated:[4]

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    “Change occurs from awareness of what aspects of our personality we want to develop, and working hard to “practice” them in daily life.”

    Here are some tips on sticking to a plan:

    Engage in Self-Reflection

    Reflect on things that have derailed you in the past and problem solve them before they happen.

    Jot down those things that tend to get you off track. Now, list ways to combat the derailments before they happen. For example, if you are wanting to lose weight but you work late hours, then commit to morning workouts.

    If you know that in the past you would continually hit the snooze button and subsequently miss the workouts, then hire a trainer for early morning workouts. You are less likely to miss your workout if you have real money attached to it and someone counting on you to show up. You could also schedule morning workouts with a friend, so you know there is someone showing up and you don’t want to let them down.

    Brainstorm solutions for your past derailments so that this time around you are ready to stick to the plan and the commitment you have made to change.

    Define Your Commitment

    Commitment is a daily mental and physical plight when it comes to change. If your commitment is to lose weight, then be specific about how you are going to achieve your change. For example, you decide you are going to stick to 1,800 calories a day and a 1-hour workout every day.

    Then, write those goals down and chart your daily progress. Hold yourself accountable.

    Final Thoughts

    Can people change? Hopefully, by now, you believe that they can. If you have a sense of commitment and persistence, change is possible with any life experience.

    Start small, create specific goals, and don’t wait to get started. You’ll be amazed how far change will take you.

    More on How to Make Changes in Your Life

    Featured photo credit: Jurica Koletić via unsplash.com

    Reference

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