Conflicts. No one likes them. They can be especially stressful in a family environment and lead to increased anxiety for everyone. Conflicts can arise for many different reasons. Some of these reasons include a difference in something such as values, standards, points of view, wants or needs, beliefs, decision making, and someone wanting the upper hand/control. Conflict resolution is a critical element that helps families (and everyone, really) find compromise. Conflict resolution also helps maintain healthy relationships in many compartments of anyone’s life. Techniques that have been proven effective include active listening, practicing self-awareness and self-regulation, deciding if the problem is a big issue or small issue, and seeking outside, professional help. Let’s talk about conflict resolution techniques for family life.
Active listening is a skill that involves listening to others and responding to them in a way that allows a mutual understanding. Some things that are considered in active listening are maintaining eye contact (when culturally appropriate) with the person you are speaking with, asking questions for clarification or understanding, and rephrasing or reflecting to help understanding. Active listening also includes not interrupting someone while they are telling their point of view. Also, it is important to not assume or suggest points of view. Active listening shows those who you are working with that you are interested in what they are saying and are invested in solving the problem. When active listening is not applied in conflict situations, individuals can feel ignored, misunderstood, and frustrated. This can further complicate disagreements and lead to resentment and anger.
Practicing Self Awareness and Self Regulation
Self-awareness and self-regulation are two of the most important parts of emotional intelligence. What is emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is basically defined as understanding and controlling your emotions and understanding the emotions of others. It includes self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, social skills, and motivation. Utilizing these skills are important in conflict resolution becuase in order to achieve resolve, you must first understand how everyone involved in the situation is feeling. When in a conflict situation, as a parent, you must put your feelings aside to focus on the needs of others. Regulating your emotions and responses is also important because negative emotions can only add fuel to the fire. Helpful self-regulation tasks can include staying calm and avoiding anger. Taking deep breaths or thinking before acting is beneficial. Working through a disagreement after anger has subsided can aslo help.
Big Problem vs. Little Problem
Ever needed to figure something out by means of making a list of pros and cons? The strategy of determining big problem vs. little problem is simple, but effective. This technique helps everyone in the family reflect on the challenge at hand and determine if the trigger of the conflict is something big or if it is something…not-so-big. Another way to look at it is: is this issue something that is really worth the energy that is being put into it? Another question to consider is: how is the conflict affecting the family (consider each person and the entire family unit). Small conflicts usually have easy or simple solutions. They also do not require much attention, reflection, or intervention. Small problems may only affect one or two people in the family and not the entirity of the family. Big problems on the other hand, they are the opposite. Conflicts of this size require more time and effort to solve. Larger issues typically involve the entire family and can require the assistance of a trained professional such as a mental health professional, counselor, or family therapist.
Seeking Professional Assistance
Seeking outside help for family conflicts is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, when a family is finding themselves in a pickle bigger than they can tackle or if they have tried multiple times to find a solution, this avenue may be just what the doctor ordered (no pun intended)! Some examples of conflict resolution techniques for family life could include a MFT (marriage and family therapist), life coach, family support specialist, or a family support group. Having a professional mediate the processing and breaking down of conflict can prove beneficial because the are trained in the art of helping others reflect, understand, and process the emotions surrounding what is happening and how if affects everyone involved. Having professional help also allows family members to get their feelings out in a safe space and work collectively to find solutions. Therapists and support specialists help build the team mentality in families and encourage teamwork. Support workers also help family members find tools to promote collaboration in the family unit.
Communication for Collaboration
Teamwork makes the dream work! This is true for families, too. Collaboration is key to finding solutions. Working together builds family ties and eliminates the conflict between one another. But how do we collaborate? Through communication! Social skills (i.e. communication) is imperative. Verbal communication conveys explicit information about what we expect or what we experience. Nonverbal communication can also send messages about how we are feeling to our family. Accurate communication (both verbal and nonverbal) is essential in order to work together to find solutions beneficial to everyone in the family.
With so many different opinions, worldviews, values, standards, and “need” of control, conflict within a family is certainly something that will occur at one point or another. Resolving familial conflict is important because it is a teachable moment that provides the opportunity for compromise and even more importantly, conflict resolution helps establish what is expected in relationships throughout life. There are many different conflict resolution techniques for family life to consider when dealing with family challenges. Not every technique will work for every family. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Trial and error may occur. Regardless of what a family chooses to effectively resolve conflict, it is an important skill that must be learned.
The most important thing you can do to have a happy family is to put God first. If you don’t Jesus, please click here to find out more about how much He loves you. God loves you and we care.