8 family conflict resolution tips from our intergenerational workshop
Family conflicts leave us feeling angry, hurt, sad, rejected and often helpless. This gives rise to the common response of avoiding conflicts. We often find ourselves giving or being given the advice to stay calm, adjust and not fight, not argue, not create a source of tension. This comes from the seemingly obvious assumption that conflicts are bad and the fewer conflicts we have with people, especially family, the better it is for our relationship.
At Samvedna, we got together for a workshop, to discuss the nature of conflicts and how to resolve them most effectively. Everyone shared their opinion on what conflicts are, and many shared that conflicts are unpleasant and avoiding them is the best approach. Many also shared that we must adjust to avoid conflicts. Some people however, shared a different opinion. They felt that conflicts lend experience and if resolved calmly can lead to new insights.
This assumption that conflicts are always bad, negative experiences to be avoided is one made too carelessly. Where two or more people come together, two or more different views, ideas, perspective and opinions also come together. How can it be arranged then that this difference should never be brought up, never be discussed, or never be a source of conflict. Thus, we must accept conflict as a normal part of human interaction, be it at home, on the streets on in a conference hall.
If it is normal, then why do we try so hard to avoid it? This is probably because we give more importance to how we feel than to the actual reason for conflict. We get trapped by our feelings and often react to our feelings than to the problem at hand. The fact that conflicts give rise to negative feelings is unfortunate as it prevents us from appreciating the benefits of conflicts.
Benefits of conflicts
It was a surprising revelation for all the people taking part in the workshop that conflicts are not only normal, but also have benefits. When we discussed that conflicts are normal, some argued against it. When conflicts can damage relationships and can create a rift, then how can they have benefits?
When we look at conflicts as bad, negative, hurtful, and something to be avoided, then we behave in a manner that can damage relationships. However, we must change our perspective. We should look at conflicts as a normal part of human interaction that needs to be dealt with calmly and carefully.
Further, we went on to discuss some of the benefits of conflicts:
- Confrontation can lead to change
- Conflicts increase awareness of problems that need to be solved and can increase your motivation to do well
- Disagreement brings multiple perspectives together and can help come to a decision that has been thought through more carefully
- Conflicts are emotional experiences and can help you understand what you are like under pressure and help you learn to deal with adversities more effectively
- Resolution of minor conflicts can prevent potentially large conflicts
- Using humor and lightheartedness when dealing conflicts can be fun and helps in not taking conflicts too seriously.
During the workshop, we completed a “Know Your Style” worksheet, that helped us discover our unique style of conflict resolution.
Conflict Resolution Tips
Many suggestions were given by all members in the workshop. Some shared that delaying the discussion and not reacting at a time when the other person is angry helps as it prevents escalation. Some people also suggested letting go of minor things. We further discussed the following as effective was to manage conflicts:
1) Act opposite to your initial feeling
Your feelings don’t always give you the best advice. They often make the situation seem worse and can give you a lopsided perspective. Laying too much emphasis on your feelings also distracts you from the actual goal at hand. So, don’t take your feelings to seriously.
2) Try to understand the problem completely
Am I stating the real problem? How do I know it is a problem? Is the situation a problem or is it my reaction to the situation that makes it a problem? Is there more than one problem? If nothing is done, what will happen? (Is there really a problem?)
3) Use why sentences to explain your position
Why is it a problem? Why do I want a particular solution? Why is it important to me? Why am I willing to fight for it? Once you know the answers, you are in a better position to explain yourself to the other person.
4) Try to genuinely understand the other person’s position
To constructively and collaboratively deal with a conflict, it is important to be open and receptive to the other’s viewpoint. It helps to keep reminding yourself the no person is a problem and a solution has to be found to a problem. It is not about who wins, but how the problem goes away.
5) Pick a set time and place to talk
“Let’s talk about this at home, tomorrow after dinner”. When you fix a time and place to discuss the conflict, you are acknowledging that there is something to solve, something to make better. All parties involved are being given time and mental space to prepare for it. By delaying the conversation, you are avoiding the conflict from going out of hand due to escalated emotions.
6) Stick to the subject at hand
Bringing up past fights is counterproductive in resolving the current conflict. It is used as leverage and it makes the fight personal rather than collaborative. Talking about just the current conflict helps us be focused and solution oriented. If another conflict topic arises that needs to be addressed, you can choose a separate time and place to talk about it.
7) Don’t label
Making personal attacks during conflicts can make the whole process of solution finding very distressing and hurtful. “You’re just always careless”, “You always make these stupid mistakes”. Other than being hurtful, such statements are irrelevant to the conflict and can often derail the discussion.
8) Use “I feel” statements
Instead of starting your sentences with YOU, try starting them with I. Instead of saying “YOU don’t understand me”, say “I feel that you don’t understand me when you cut me off in the middle”. Start my expressing your feelings and opinion about the matter (not facts) and also explain why you feel that way. The other person is far more receptive when you express an idea as your feeling or opinion that accusations.
To end the interactive and informative workshop on Conflict Resolution, we did an interesting activity where each member had to decide whether the pointer given to them was something that should be done to resolve conflicts or something that should not be done.
Which of the following according to you are DOS and which are DON’TS?
- Read mind and assume you already know what another party’s thoughts and feelings are rather than asking.
- Express your anger or resentments right away rather than stockpiling them.
- Admit when you are wrong and apologize. Sometimes this will end the dispute.
- Make character attacks.
We at Samvedna Senior Care aim to help seniors live happy, active and independent lives, in the comfort of their home and community through interactive caregiving.
Samvedna Senior Care was established in October 2013 with two complementary goals – firstly to provide quality home care services to seniors with limited mobility or dementia and hence social interaction, and secondly to facilitate stimulating community interaction and participation. All our senior care specialists are psychologists or gerontologists.
Here are some of our services –
With our General Well Being Services we aim to raise the quality of life of seniors, specially those who may have limited mobility and social interaction due to various constraints. Our interactive programme keeps them active and engaged through physical, mental and social activities, all in the comfort of their home.
Great Times by Samvedna is our social and recreational club in Sector 57, Gurgaon, for members 55 years and above. Its a place where members come to get fit, meet like minded people and share their life experiences and give back to the community.
Activities at the club include fitness exercises, group meditation, mind stimulation, tambola, dancing, book reviews, movies, community outreach, and talks on health management. The club has a library, computer room, visits by physiotherapists and doctors, access to board games and cards, a fully functional pantry with healthy and affordable snacks and tea and coffee on the house.
There are special discounts for group memberships. The club is open Monday-Friday, 11am to 2pm.There are special classes for yoga, smart phones, computers, spoken english, dance, music and painting. We also have Bridge mornings every Tuesday and Thursday. Call Great Times Club at 9818421446, 0124-4229659.
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