Did you believe a family conflict was solved only to discover it’s still a problem? Days or months later, the conflict surfaces again. You are caught off guard because you thought the conflict was over. Feelings are hurt because a problem persisted. So, what’s the next step?
I recently learned valuable tips on resolving a family conflict from my daughter. Our kids, no matter their age, have great insights into family relationships!
Conflicts with my daughter are rare. But, when I failed to support her plans to join an overseas missionary organization rather than attend college, we experienced our first major conflict. Ultimately, she served overseas with my full support. I believed our disagreement was resolved.
I was wrong. Months later, my lack of support came up again in a different context. Her negative feelings signaled the need for a deeper discussion about our relationship. We needed to overcome our differences with love and grace.
Here are five things I learned from our conversation:
- Listen, Listen, Listen. Often you believe you are listening, but you are distracted or rehearsing your answer in your mind. You don’t really hear what the other person is saying. People want your undivided attention when they are speaking. When they are done sharing, summarize what you heard and ask for confirmation.
- Discover the hidden issue. Reoccurring family conflicts often mask a hidden issue because family members are afraid to tell the truth. Be open. Ask questions that encourage honesty and a deep discussion. As I listened to my daughter and asked focused questions, I discovered that she wanted to be known and respected for the person she had become.
- Encourage their unique perspective. It’s easy to see your family from your own perspective and not recognize the differences between individuals. Every family is filled with different needs, personalities, and viewpoints. Whether you agree or not, be open to hearing from your family members about how they see and experience you. What they share may surprise you.
- Be Humble. Working through a conflict can cause you to react and over-explain yourself. Don’t do it! Humility requires you to listen, understand, and not respond with an explanation. Honestly, people don’t really care about all your reasons, just let them know you regard them more highly than yourself. Believe me, I know – I often have reasons for why I do what I do and my kids call me out. Humility, sigh….
- Offer a sincere apology. A sincere apology is soothing balm to a wounded heart. The secret is that your apology can’t be offered without first listening to their complaint. A hasty “I am sorry” to end a conflict is meaningless. You must understand how you offended the other person and commit to preventing it from happening again.
Family misunderstandings are inevitable, but conflicts that persist can be avoided. When you invest time to ensure family members are heard and understood, respected and loved, you will reap many relational benefits and stop future problems in their tracks. I am thankful my daughter has shown me a better way!
Question: What approaches have you have found most useful in managing ongoing family conflicts? I would love to read your comments below.
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