Family Fights & Fighting Fair: How to Peacefully Resolve Conflict



Mediate2go.com Family Fights & Fighting Fair: How to Peacefully Resolve Conflict and WabiSabiTherapist.com

Lynda Martens is a therapist and Mediate2go.com Blog Contributor. Please read about how she recommends to deal with family fights, from a problem solving perspective.
I have often thought of making this into a flow chart…think of it as such.  The process starts with the question… “Whose problem is this?”  at the top of the page.  If it is something that has you upset, it’s your problem.  If your partner is upset about something, it’s their problem, and if both of you are upset, then it’s shared.  The important part of starting with this question is that everything that happens after this…your role in the process…depends on whose problem it is.  Many problems are made worse when we forget this simple step and act as though the problem is ours when it’s not.

Step 1 The person with the problem will need to determine the size of the problem, in order to determine whether it is something that needs discussing.  Try to put problems into a basket!!!
Step 2: for the person without the problem:  If the problem is your partner’s…all you really have to do is listen openly so that you can understand.  Make this your only goal to start.  Put away the defending and the “yes…buts’”.  Don’t say a word until you believe that you understand and calmly restate what their concern is.  You can ask questions if you don’t get it.  An example… Person A says “When you say you’re going to take out the garbage and you don’t…I get frustrated with how it builds up. It smells bad.”  Listen, then maybe ask “Do you mean that you expect me to do it every week or that you want to know whether I realistically have time, and if I don’t…I should say so?”  And so on until it is understood.  The listener can remember that there is no expectation that miracles will happen…the speaker just wants to be heard most of the time.  Nothing needs to be fixed necessarily…just heard.
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Step 3: for the person with the problem:  Okay, back to the first question…if the problem is yours, and you have determined that it is in basket B… State the problem calmly, without accusatory tones or words (avoid words like “fault… never…always…blame”).  Avoid swearing, yelling, name calling, put-downs (you won’t… and shouldn’t .. get heard if you do this).  Try a formula of “When you ____, I feel ___ because ____.”  
Mediate2go.com Family Fights & Fighting Fair: How to Peacefully Resolve Conflict and WabiSabiTherapist.com
Remember that no one causes your emotions.  The problem is a problem because your personal reaction defines it as such… someone different may be more tolerant of certain behaviours.    Simply state the problem.  You don’t need to drive it into the ground.  They heard you and your words have more power if they are simple and clear.  If there is something specific you expect them to do that is serious (think basket C) you can make clear strong statements about your expectations…but no threats.  But remember, you can’t make them do anything, so focus on your clear and respectful delivery, and not your expectations.  Any time your goal is about getting someone else to do something differently, you’re in for trouble.
Step 4:  If the Problem is Shared:  This is the tricky part.  You both are upset and both trying to be heard.  Often times, a problem starts out as one person’s and becomes shared and more complex when the expression of the problem becomes part of the problem (“Sure I forgot the garbage again, but did you have to overreact like that and dump it all over the yard?”)  If you have followed the steps above, fewer things will fit into this category.  But if you’re already there…it’s a process of taking turns speaking and listening.  Think of it as two separate problems and treat it as such, using the process above.  Put yourself back in that sandbox and remember to share the time and take turns listening… if you want to be heard, you have to listen too.


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Some general DON’TS:  
  • Don’t tell your partner what to do.  Commands are not respectful.  
  • Don’t attack.  
  • Don’t roll your eyes or get sarcastic (Oh…okay well I’ll do the garbage every freakin day then…how’s that?”)  
  • Don’t bring up the last twenty times they did the same thing, or the time they insulted your mother and you’ll never forget it…it’s called ‘kitchen sinking’ to bring up past problems.  
  • Keep it to the present situation.  
  • Don’t tell all your friends about the issues in your marriage.  
  • Don’t bring things up when you’re about to sleep and it’s dark.

Some general DO’S:  
  • Do find out when it’s a good time to discuss a problem.  
  • Do keep it brief.  No long lectures.  
  • Do scale the problem first…”this is a 2 out of 10, so it’s not a biggie…” This helps shrink a problem before you even talk about it.  
  • Do take a time-out if you feel you’re going to explode (time outs are not about ditching the issue though…state where you will be and how long it will be before you will be ready to discuss it.  
  • Do address very small items in front of the kids so they can see you resolving it, but save the biggies for private talks.

Know your partner and yourself and what you both need.  Talk about your conflict resolution process and what things work and don’t for both of you.  Check out blogs and websites about "fighting fair", "family fights" and "fighting families", like this one.  And do consider consulting with a therapist if the pattern is stuck and your wheels are spinning.
Search: #Family-Fights, #Family-Fighting, #fighting-families, #Divorce, #Family-Mediation



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