Handling Family Conflicts
Holiday reunions with loved ones can sometimes lead to family conflicts. Whether the conflict is between you and your partner or among other family members, keep the following tips in mind as you try to work out a problem.
1. Keep Calm
Keeping a level head may be difficult, especially when anger or frustration build. However, keeping calm will help you communicate your concerns more clearly, keep others calm, and ultimately help resolve the conflict more quickly. Sometimes a “time out” might be necessary to help everyone cool down before they begin to talk to one another (Harris 2015a).
2. Tune into Your Feelings
Most conflicts arise because of the way someone’s actions made us feel.
For example, if someone has been chronically late to family gatherings, this may make others feel as though that person doesn’t think spending time with the family is important. Saying, “You’re so inconsiderate,” will only increase tensions. Instead, saying, “When you get to grandma’s house later than the rest of us, it makes us feel like you don’t want to spend time with us,” helps you avoid putting someone on the defensive (Harris 2015a). Using “I feel” statements also encourages both sides to empathize with each other and find common ground.
3. Tackle One Problem at a Time
Bringing up a laundry list of old grievances when the newest conflict is still unsettled is unproductive and won’t resolve any of the current feelings. Deal with the issue at hand first before moving on to any others (Harris 2015a).
4. Fight Fair
When we argue and emotions are high, we might begin “attacking someone’s personality or character with accusation or blame;” show contempt through “intentional insulting, name-calling, mocking, rolling eyes, or sneering;” or refuse to talk to the other person (“stonewalling”) (Harris 2015b). However, if your goal is resolve the conflict, engaging in the above will only slow your progress and may even create more conflicts.
Victor William Harris. 2015a. 10 Rules for Constructive Holiday Conflict. FCS2314. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences. Accessed November 23, 2015. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1276
Victor William Harris. 2015b. 9 Important Communication Skills for Every Relationship. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences. Accessed November 23, 2015. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1277