How to Resolve Family Conflict

Family talking at the dinner table and smiling.

Conflict is inevitable among families, and the ways families choose to resolve conflict makes a huge difference. Families who peacefully resolve conflict may grow closer as they learn from one another and work hard to take one another's feelings into consideration. When conflict remains unresolved, however, it may lead to family members harboring anger, growing resentful and trying to force other family members to take sides. Whether your family conflict remains simple, or it includes years of unresolved disputes among extended family members, make attempts to restore peace by reaching a resolution amenable to everyone involved.

State the problem and determine who needs to work together to develop the solution. When family members clearly identify a problem, they can begin to work on it. However, when people don't acknowledge the problem, or avoid discussing it altogether, a successful resolution becomes impossible.

Establish ground rules for resolving the problem. Before discussing ways to resolve the problem, set some rules for the discussion. For example, agree that no one will call anyone names or ban yelling. Encourage small breaks from the discussion if tempers flare, and emphasize the importance of resolving conflict peacefully.

Brainstorm solutions to the problem. Allow everyone involved to offer input into potential solutions. During the brainstorming process, don't judge whether each solution is good or bad, but instead, create a list of potential solutions.

Evaluate the risks and benefits of each potential solution. Listen to each family member's input about the pros and cons of the solutions.

Reach a solution as a team. Try to reach a consensus about which solution will best resolve the conflict. Be willing to negotiate, and encourage family members to be open to new solutions.

Identify what each family member will do to work on the solution. Each person should identify action steps he will take to work toward the solution.

Tip

Use "I" messages instead of "you" messages to express your thoughts and feelings.

Warning

Seek professional help if you are not able to resolve the conflict peacefully.