Between back-to-school, work, and a hectic election season, you might be finding yourself with less patience and more family conflicts. While any election and holiday season can present additional stress and opportunities for disagreements, this year has some people feeling more tension. It’s important to support your mental health and maintain strong family relationships by engaging in healthy family conflict-resolution strategies.
No matter how close your family is, there are sure to be moments when you disagree or have differing points of view. Family conflicts can affect anyone regardless of their family structure, size, or any other number of factors and the cause of conflict can come from a difference of opinion, experience, preference, perspective, personality, or beliefs.
When things get out of hand, the mental health of yourself and other family members can deteriorate due to stress, anxiety, and depression, leading to emotional development issues in the case of children who are routinely exposed to hostile family conflicts. When it comes to navigating a tense conversation, the important part is how you choose to approach conflict.
Here are some tips to help you approach difficult topics, have calmer conversations, and keep the peace in your household this season.
1. Stay Calm
Whether you’re butting heads with a family member about political views or who’s responsible for doing the dishes, you might feel anger and frustration building up. Anger is a normal emotional response to conflict, but it shouldn’t be your driving force because it can cloud your judgment, making it more difficult to reach a reasonable resolution to your conflict. Stay calm in the face of differing opinions and remember that you can always take a break from a conversation and return to it later if you feel your emotions running awry. Some healthy ways to manage anger can include going for a walk, practicing some deep breathing, or even writing down your thoughts to make them easier to process.
2. Be an Active Listener
If you spend most of a conversation judging the other person’s statement or figuring out what you’re going to say next, you might not be fully listening which can lead to misinterpretations and frustration. Active listening is a great communication tool that involves patience, engaged body language such as nodding and eye contact, asking questions, and summarizing messages for comprehension. In any conflict, listen without interrupting, and be sure to ask for clarification when necessary to make sure you understand the message that’s being conveyed to you. You might find that it’s easier to see the other person’s point of view or find a path to a mutual solution.
3. Respect Differing Opinions
Empathy and respect are integral parts of maintaining healthy relationships with family, friends, and coworkers, even when you don’t share the same ideas. Everyone is entitled to have their own set of opinions and beliefs, even if they do not always align with your own. This means staying focused on the issue at hand instead of launching ad hominem attacks on the intelligence, integrity, or character of the person you’re experiencing a conflict. It’s important to remember that not all conflicts or disagreements can be resolved, but you can always decide to treat your family member (or anyone else) with respect.
4. Consider the Bigger Picture
Many conflicts seem to hinge on one person or one side coming out as the “winner.” However, conversations with family shouldn’t be viewed as battlegrounds if you want to reach a solution that both sides can be happy with. Use family conflict as an opportunity to build your communication skills as a team and work with each other to make sure you are practicing respect, active listening, and empathy, even in situations where there’s no clear-cut resolution.
5. Create Safe Boundaries
While you cannot control what someone says or does in a conflict, you can control how you respond to the situation. Setting boundaries is an effective way to practice self-care and self-respect when you start to feel overwhelmed by a conversation. Oftentimes conflicts can lead to meaningful conversations, but if your family member becomes aggressive, or you find yourself becoming too upset, it’s time to set up a personal boundary and leave the conversation. If you begin to feel unsafe in a situation, it’s time to seek outside help such as law enforcement, an attorney, or a therapist.
If the family conflict becomes a commonplace issue in your household or if you find yourself having difficulty communicating effectively with your family members, it might be time to seek out a trained professional. Many therapists specialize in family counseling and can offer guidance to multiple members of one family to help you see each other’s perspectives and find a resolution.
Healthy conflict resolution skills can help you weather difficult conversations and come out the other end feeling calmer and more satisfied with your important relationships intact. Whether you’re dealing with a tough election season or a hectic home life, communication is key to finding common ground and working toward a solution that is ideal for everyone involved.
If you are in a crisis, please call us at 720-791-2735 or by calling the crisis line at 844-493-8255. The 24/7 crisis walk-in center and withdrawal management program is open at 4643 Wadsworth Blvd, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033.