As long as there are families, there will be some sort of family conflict. These can occur between the parents, or it may be a sibling rivalry between the children. It’s normal and healthy for family members to share a difference of opinion if it’s done respectfully.
If someone says his family is drama-free, he is lying, or nobody in the family can honestly speak their mind. Unfortunately, most family conflicts arise regarding financial situations. Others fester over petty offenses that have long been forgotten.
11 Ways to Deescalate Family Conflict
Conflict has been the ruin of many family relationships.
Have you ever been a reluctant party to a family disagreement? How can you remain calm, stick to the facts, and work out an amicable solution? Here are 11 helpful ways to deescalate a family quarrel and keep your relationships intact.
1. Take a Break
When a disagreement within your family gets heated, you can often deescalate the situation by standing back for a moment. Remember that anger is the most comfortable emotion to show, and it usually masks insecurity and fear.
If you are caught in the middle of a family dispute, and the situation is reaching the boiling point, you should take a break, use deep breathing, and count to ten. This short pause may help you catch your breath and get a better view of the conflict.
If you feel that you need more time to gather your thoughts, it’s okay to walk away. When you have improved control over your emotions, you can think and reason better with others.
2. Stay Calm
It’s not easy to remain calm when everyone around you is yelling and blaming everyone else. When someone is belligerent, it’s human nature to mirror his emotions and snap right back. In these situations, your survival instinct kicks in.
Your body floods with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisone, causing panic and anxiety, among other things. The best tactic to deescalate a family argument is to stay calm. When you speak in a standard, unthreatening tone, it sets the stage for everyone else.
Avoid telling others to calm down because it will probably be met with another stream of hurtful words.
3. Choose Your Battles
You must prioritize things so that you know what is most important in your life. Then, it’s less difficult to decide when it’s time to stand up and fight and when you should let something go.
Think back over your life and recall major squabbles within your family. Did the issues at hand prove crucial to everyone’s lives, or were they something trivial?
It can help deescalate a conflict if you ask yourself if this issue will mean anything next month or a year from now. Don’t risk losing a precious family bond over pettiness.
4. Turn Down the Volume
Why is it that when arguments escalate and tempers flare, everyone seems to have lost their hearing? Raising your voice is an innate human tactic to dominate others. When you think people aren’t listening and aren’t complying with your demands, yelling may be your go-to to force.
A loud voice isn’t going to sway others into your way of thinking. When you mix misplaced anger and raised voices, it creates an infernal whirlwind of hurtful words and potential violence.
To deescalate conflict in your family or with others, purposely lower your voice if you feel a flash of anger. It’s easier to understand each other’s points of view and resolve the issue when everybody isn’t screaming.
5. Listen, Listen, and Listen Again
One of the significant causes of misunderstandings and senseless arguments is that many people don’t listen to each other. Active listening requires you to be part of the conversation by using neutral body language, mirroring the speaker’s emotion, and restating what she’s said to gain clarification.
The golden rule of settling a dispute is for each party to be heard. Listen to what your friend or loved one has to say without interruption. Show mutual respect and listen to each other’s viewpoints. It’s the best way to resolve an argument.
Many buzzwords should be avoided when deescalating a family feud. “Always” and “never” are indefinite qualifiers that usually make a statement more hostile. “You NEVER do your share, and you ALWAYS mess everything up.”
These statements aren’t helpful, and they do nothing but fan the flames of conflict. If you must address an issue with a friend or family member, “sometimes” can make him feel less defensive.
For example: “Sometimes when we don’t divide the work between us, I feel overworked and resentful.”
7. Express Your Feelings with “I.”
When you’re in an argument, the easiest way to put the other person in defensive mode is by starting your statements with the word “you.” Saying something like “You are just like your mother” can make matters worse.
To deescalate a family argument, be inclusive and make “we” statements. For example, “How can we do better planning for dinner when one of us is running late?” “Can we sit down together and go over the bills to create a more feasible budget?
These statements show that you are willing to work together for a solution, and you will avoid pointing the finger and blaming others.
8. Keep Past Grievances off the Table
Unless you have dementia or another brain condition, you can forgive, but you can never forget. Forgiving someone does not excuse the action. Rather, it puts the ball back into the offender’s court, and it gives you the freedom to go on with life. While the offense may still be written forever on your mind, it will never serve you well as a tool for control or revenge.
During a family conflict, try to stick to the facts at hand. You’ll only add fuel to the fire if you start dredging up issues from the past. It won’t help the situation and will only make you look bitter and vengeful.
9. Do Some Brainstorming
Frequently you can deescalate a family argument by giving everyone some breathing room. Take this time to brainstorm ways to resolve the conflict. You may need a couple of hours or days.
What’s important is that you don’t come together until the flaring emotions have somewhat cooled. Agree beforehand that everyone will get a chance to give his input without interruption. When everyone has calmed, it may be easier to see possible solutions that you couldn’t see because of the emotional storm.
Write ideas down on paper or a whiteboard so they appear clear to everyone present. Now, civilly discuss the ideas to come to a solution.
10. Be Able to Compromise
Is being right more important to you than your family relationships? Many family squabbles never get resolved because some people refuse to back down, apologize, or compromise.
You may come closer to a resolution if everyone involved feels like they’ve been heard, and their feelings have been validated. Of course, hearing and validation doesn’t mean they are right.
Listen to each other and find ways to compromise. If the conflict is over material goods or money, ask yourself if it’s worth your relationship. You can lay your head on your pillow at night when you have done the right thing, even if you had to compromise.
11. Bring in Professional Help
Some family disagreements are multi-faceted and involve generations of ill will and miscommunication. These problematic situations may not be the kind that can be resolved at the family dinner table. Before you see your precious family, bonds destroyed, deescalate the situation with professional help.
Family therapists are trained and experienced in family dynamics and familial disputes. Find a therapist you trust that makes you and your family feel comfortable. Your therapist isn’t there to take sides, but they can facilitate respectful conversation between opposing views.
Even if you can’t come to a resolution, you can still stay civil with each other.
Whenever people are in a group, whether family, friends, or coworkers, there will be conflict. Arguments are a normal part of life. Since they are so common, you must learn effective strategies for resolving these issues without turning them into an all-out war.
If you find yourself in the middle of a torrential family dispute, try your best to stay calm and work together to find a solution. There is a reason that peacemakers are called blessed as it’s not an easy task. Count to ten, think about what you want to say and remember that you love the person.