How do you typically deal with conflict when it comes up in your family? Do you walk away? Do you fight to the death? Do you negotiate? Do you give in? Do you compromise?
How each of us approaches conflict is based on our own beliefs and experiences. If you grew up as a middle child, for example, you may have the tendency to fight for what you want. Or, if you are a helping professional or a parent, you may have a tendency to respond with compassion.
Depending on the situation, some methods can be more effective than others.
So how do you tend to handle conflict? Here are several typical responses. Which one is your feels most familiar to you?
“I can’t win anyway so why even try?” People with this response might feel like they have no control of the situation, so their tendency is to throw in the towel and not act. A great example of this is a teenager shouting, “fine!” and stomping out of the room and up the stairs.
This response is about fighting for what you want. The thought behind it might be, “I’m going to make sure I get my way” (even if it’s at your own expense.)
Some of the thoughts that we have are, “I’m not going to continue to argue because it’s not helping.” “I know I’m right anyway so it doesn’t matter.”
(Note, this is not the same as “giving in.”) Here you sincerely put the other person’s desires ahead of yours and enjoy the service of giving. “Let’s do it your way.”
This is the “Win-Win.” From this perspective, we understand that all individuals involved in the situation have viewpoints that are “right” for them. This gives us the opportunity to create an even stronger solution. A question you can ask is “how can I get what I want and also help you accomplish your goals?” If two people work together, they can likely come up with ideas that they would not have created on their own.
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Dealing with Family Conflict
Any of these sound familiar? While your typical response is based on your perspective and life experiences, there is a lot of power available for you in paying attention, noticing when your typical responses are not effective.
Some responses, like confronting and checking out, can damage relationships and create stress. You have an opportunity to choose your response – instead of being on autopilot. This is really hard in the heat of the moment, particularly when we have gotten into a particular pattern with a person or situation.
Ready for an Alternate Approach?
Anticipate Tipping Points (see Phil Anderton’s article for an explanation). Identify times when conflict is likely to happen. Take a deep breath and pause before you react.
When you choose to respond, it can allow for more success, and it limits the stress produced in the situation. It’s likely that you will come up with an even better solution, and have less stress in the process of dealing with family conflict.