What Can Family Conflict Sound Like?
“Why do you always have to be right?”
“You’re ruining my life!”
“You’re so messed up.”
“Stop being so emotional.”
Have you ever been on the receiving end of statements such as these? If you’re human, and you’re in any type of relationship with other humans, there is no doubt you’ve heard these statements – or versions thereof. Perhaps you’ve delivered one of these zingers yourself?
The Role of Family Dynamics
Research has shown that family relationships play a crucial role in the mental health of individuals along with other areas of development such as social skills and other fundamental skills for life. Studies reveal that individuals raised in harmonious and functional families afford the experience of better mental health, good physical health and overall well-being. However, in many families, harmonious and functional would not describe their relationship reality. In today’s society, the interaction between family members is often more dysfunctional than functional and significantly more conflictive than harmonious.
What is a “Functional” Family?
In a healthy and functional family, everyone feels safe, accepted and respected. This positive environment is established by a set of rules for acceptable behaviours, clear and consistent boundaries, and positively reinforced values and principles to live by. Unfortunately, all families, as with all social systems, have some level of dysfunction. That doesn’t mean all families are unhealthy or dysfunctional, but some can be.
What is Dysfunctional in a Family?
Perhaps you are reading this and thinking, “I’m not sure my family relationships are healthy?” Or maybe you know, without a doubt, your family relationships are unhealthy. Families that have unhealthy levels of dysfunction often cause harm to one another. Personal boundaries, positive communication and emotion regulation are virtually non-existent in these types of home environments. Toxic behaviour such as manipulation, blaming, shaming, lying, judging and never taking responsibility for one’s actions are commonplace in dysfunctional families. Regrettably, dealing with family conflict in this type of dynamic is more complicated. After all, you cannot simply break off contact with these relationships because you are and always will be family!
Why Does Family Conflict Occur?
The potential for conflict exists whenever, and wherever people are in contact with one another. When you feel threatened, or misunderstood, when your feelings are hurt or your goals and interests are incompatible with others, you’re in the conflict zone! Am I preaching to the choir? We’ve all ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ when it comes to conflict in family relationships. What is interesting is that many conflicts and clashes in relationships occur more often over perceived differences than real ones. Many times, because of our differing perceptions, we are already anticipating conflict before any true conflict even exists.
Common Areas Family Conflict Arises
In general, you will find conflict between individuals in the following areas:
The inability to share your ideas or feelings clearly will allow the other person to “fill in the gaps.” The one you are trying to relay communication to will often “read into” what they think you are trying to say. This will most likely lead to misinterpretation and misunderstanding resulting in a growing conflict.
Incompatible Values, Beliefs and Expectations
When there are differences between individuals in these areas, a conflict will almost always occur. If we are inflexible, rigid and dogmatic in these areas, we will most certainly find ourselves at odds with others. Differing values, beliefs and expectations will predispose any two people to choose different approaches or methods to do things or achieve goals. Ultimately, each person will attempt to exert their way of doing things over another, creating conflict.
Domineering, Controlling or Passive-aggressive Behaviour
In every family, there are diverse personalities. One family member may be more passive while another more domineering. Each of these can create conflict when someone attempts to take control of a decision or employ control over the actions of another. Aggressive and passive-aggressive behaviour are both aimed at harming the other person. Any time one individual attempts to exercise their will over the will of another sparks fly!
Unresolved Issues from the Past
As the number of hurts, misunderstandings and unresolved conflicts increase, so does the possibility of future ones. Many families choose to shy away from conflict resolution as the pain caused by past conflicts holds them in a state of fearing being hurt again. Strained relationships are generated more commonly between individuals who are unable to say, “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me.”
What Can You Do When Facing Family Conflict?
Most of us want to resolve conflict when it comes to our family. Talking to each other and understanding each other’s perspectives on the issue is key. But when the issue is not resolved, consulting others outside of our family sometimes can help. Whether it be a close friend or an extended family member, we may find this helpful in uncovering possible solutions. But what if the problem persists?
Here are some practical tips to try when resolving family conflicts:
Focus on the Problem, not the Person
When someone is blamed or shamed for a problem it will add fuel to the fire, not extinguish it. Most often you will experience a strong reaction when you bring accusations, focusing on the person, instead of the issue at hand. Focusing on the issue keeps personal feelings at bay and doesn’t allow emotions to get out of control.
Listen to Understand
Be willing to hear out the family member you are in conflict with. Ensure you hear their perspective without interrupting and try to understand where they are coming from.
Regulate Your Own Emotions
It is difficult to think and see clearly when your emotions are heightened. If you are feeling triggered during a conflict and your blood pressure is shooting up, take a few deep breaths or find other coping strategies to remain calm. No conflict will end well if our emotions get out of control.
Learn How to Say I’m Sorry
Take responsibility for your role in the conflict rather than assigning blame. Be sincere and offer a proper apology.
Learn to Accept Differences and Agree to Disagree
Accept the fact that you are not always going to agree. Disagreement is normal and unavoidable. Be willing to compromise for a win-win solution. Agreeing on a compromise acceptable to both parties will help to achieve a sense of collaboration rather than a win-lose outcome. The process of discussing the problem, providing a variety of solutions, and choosing a mutually agreeable one will bring greater fulfilment and establish that the needs of everyone have been met.
Can Therapy Help?
Family therapy is a specific form of therapy that focuses on solving issues in relationships. A family therapist will help resolve conflicts in the family by exploring the underlying causes and helping the family develop solutions for their issues. One of the main focuses of family therapy is improving communication among the members of the family. Problems within the parent-child relationship, sibling, or intimate partner relationships are not uncommon and can often be addressed during therapy sessions, finding a resolution.
Let Us Help with Family Conflict
If you would like to learn more about how to resolve family conflicts, Online-Therapy.com is the place to be. When you sign up to work with us, you get to choose a therapist you feel comfortable with and you can develop a personalized approach that supports your needs to bring about the changes you desire.
At Online-Therapy.com we offer an integrated and holistic approach to wellness and wholeness. Our platform includes regular sessions with a therapist via phone, text chat or video (couple counselling will be video only), worksheet support, journaling, and yoga. Our ongoing support means you have access to the professional advice you need every day, guiding you to better mental health and wellness.