Do you have a simple strategy for dealing with unexpected negative encounters within the family? I mean those times when a seemingly normal happy positive family interaction goes south. This could be in the middle of a family trip, when one person wants a quick stop for fast food, and the other person wants to go home immediately. It could be while the family is hanging out in the living room after a long day at work and you make a comment about something in the news or your experience at work, and another person finds it unacceptable.
The underlying problem in any of the above scenarios is that something that has been said or a decision that has been made has rubbed someone the wrong way. You have inadvertently hurt another family member’s feelings. Boom! You have just set off an unexpected conflict.
How will you handle it? Please don’t start by telling your wife, husband, child, or sibling, that they should not be upset over such a small thing. You are simply going to make them more angry. They will feel that their emotional well being is not important to you, and that you do not even care about they feel. If you do not have a simple and easy to use strategy for diffusing tension in such circumstances or during such encounters in your family, you will be dealing with recurring conflicts in your family.
When dealing with others, you must remember that there is an inbred need inside of most people to be right or to be seen as the victor. This is one of the main reasons why conflicts occur and why so many conflicts are never resolved, instead they boil and cause resentment and anger between family and friends for years.
The first simple strategy for dealing with such situations is to calmly clarify your comment or your point of view or plan of action without arguing or becoming negative. Sometimes this will work, at other times it won’t work. I personally tend to use this strategy a lot, when dealing with family conflicts. Be prepared for either outcome, by staying calm and positive.
If you state your opinion or point of view, and it is met with a stiff rebuttal, you have a strategic decision on your next steps. Some people in the family may see arguments as a challenge to their authority or their opportunity to finally tell you off. They may quickly lash out at you in explosive anger. They may even use that opportunity to go through a litany of your past sins or simply rehash a list of past grievances against you.
Don’t take it personal. Don’t stop talking and refuse to participate further in the family interaction. Just make a mental note of the triggering factors in that particular encounter and avoid them next time.
Don’t fight fire with fire. Don’t get into a shouting match. This is especially true at home or within the family where things can quickly get out of hand because of the elements of familiarity and residence. Remember that familiarity breeds contempt. Yes, contempt! Your kids can have contempt for you, even though, you are their parent. They may even have some underlying resentment from past family misunderstandings or conflicts. At other times the contempt could between siblings or between husband and wife!
When you live in the same house and someone gets mad at you can’t leave the house and go home as you would have done when dealing with outsiders, but you can change your location within the same house or home. This is the second simple strategy for dealing with unexpected negative counters. Go to your room or to a different part of the house or even step outside the house briefly, to give yourself time to recover emotionally before you re-engage!
Changing location might seem like a small step in trying to diffuse tension during family conflicts, but it could be potentially life saving, if you know how times family members have been stabbed by others grabbing the kitchen knife at the spur of moment during arguments. Recognize when someone is having an emotional outburst and just needs room to vent and when the anger has become so visceral that you need to get out of the room.
No matter where you go in life or who you are, or how old you are, you will encounter negative situations or challenging circumstances in your daily life. If you are between your 40s and early 60s, you are in the stress zone or what I call the “in between” zone. You are in between raising your own family and supporting or looking after the family that raised you. You are in-between taking care of your kids and taking care of your parents or older relatives. Juggling between these two realities can lead to conflicts within the family.
Sometimes this will be in the form of negative comments or false accusations. At other times it will be in the form of conflicts of interest that could affect your social, spiritual, occupational, and financial wellness. If you do not manage these situations well, they can quickly turn into stressful events that can ruin your day and have a lasting impact on your health.
Having a strategy for dealing with these types of unexpected negative encounters can help you develop more fulfilling relationships, that can help you protect your health, and keep yourself happy. Such skills and their regular application can turn out to be the difference between living your daily life with a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment or living with a sense of inadequacy and chronic stress.
To do this effectively, you must become proactive rather reactive in dealing with negative encounters and the conflict they generate. You can begin by doing a 72-hour family conflict audit to help find out the topics, discussions, situations, events, or even locations and times of the day that led to the most conflicts within the family. Is it because of different points of view or differences in each person’s perception of the truth? Are conflicts more in the morning or at night? Are they related to specific activities in the home? Are the conflicts more common in the living room, kitchen, or bedroom?
The more you understand the patterns and circumstances that are unique to your own experience of family stress, the easier it will be for you to mange conflict in your family. One problem with dealing with inherently negative situations is that it invariably entails dealing with people with different points of view, traits, and personalities.
Don’t interrupt those venting or simply having an emotional outburst. Hard as it may be for you, if you are a parent on the receiving end of this kind of outburst, your best bet would be to keep quiet and listen. It may help to calm things down. I compare emotional outbursts to cleansing of a wound or the drainage of abscess, that first has to occur before healing can take place.
An emotional burst can help you clear the mind of toxic negative thoughts, provided the person at whom it is directed has the mental capacity to examine the contents and put it in the trash, without counter attacking! This require that you improve your ability to listen without finding fault or pointing out obvious inconsistencies or areas of disagreement. Remember that the shepherd leads from behind. You don’t have to say everything you know or believe during an argument or disagreement with others.
One skill that you will need to improve to become a better manager of conflicts is the skill of listening. You must have the ability to patiently listen to others and to yourself, even when they are saying things you completely disagree with. Ask questions that show you have been listening. This will help you identify the key elements of the situation while ignoring outlandish comments. Remember that people sometimes clear out their toxic thoughts through outlandish comments when they are angry. Try to understand whether you are dealing with a simple outburst or rage with a threat to your life and safety. Once you do this, you can then make the decision on how you will deal with the situation.
Do not repeat negative comments others have made to you or accept them. Instead say, “No” or begin to do some silent meditations to yourself or say some prayers. Pray for wisdom, safety, or your health or simply get out!
You must learn to avoid turning a negative situation into a battle of wills, where the last one standing is declared the winner. This approach leads to resentments that linger on after the fact that could be detrimental to your health and wellness, if not properly addressed or managed.
For more details and strategies on how to become better at managing family conflicts get a copy of my book:9 Easy Strategies You Must Use To Become Better At Managing Family Conflicts. You can also sign up for the Compass Wellness Challenge to learn different simple, smart and easy ways, you can improve your dimensions of wellness, and live a healthier and better life!