We are told that conflict is something to be resolved and that it is our job to solve this puzzle. Well, not quite. Before jumping in headfirst to resolve conflict, we need to start with us. Our own internal conflict comes before the conflict outside of us. In order to be successful in navigating through relationships we have to first understand and develop a better relationship with ourselves. And that starts with checking in and learning about what the inner conflict is about. Asking some questions can really help clear the path and guide us through the process and ensure that what we are choosing to actually “fight” about is worth the sweat.
Here are some example questions to ask while navigating family conflict:
- What’s the true source of this family conflict?
- You may be arguing with a parent, sibling, spouse, child, or other family member about one issue, and this could easily be a minor issue, such as a family member forgetting to clean up after themselves or a child raising their voice at a parent. However, pay attention to how you feel and how you speak to others during this engagement: are you really mad or upset with this person because of this issue? Or are there bigger, underlying issues present from the past that emphasize the heaviness of this issue for you?
- What actual emotion are you feeling? For example, you may be sad, but have a pattern of covering up your sadness with anger, because in your particular family, sadness was considered weakness or was treated with minimization or judgment. To know how your truly feel, think in terms of your thoughts first, and the emotion that is true, will come to you.
- Repeated pattern or a random event?
- This question could be viewed from several angles. When considering your answer, take into account intention: this could be an individual issue, a prior relationship-related issue, or ongoing issues with this individual(s)
- What am I hoping to achieve by this conflict and what does my past experience with this person show is feasible considering their level of awareness, empathy, understanding of me etc. ?
This question could help determine if you are looking for an emotional response or an outcome. For example, if you believe you were wrongfully treated, you may want an apology in words but the individual is just not going to give you a direct apology for whatever reason. At this point, are you better off with arguing your point, or moving to setting up more clear boundaries? In other words what you ultimately want is shaping the effects from this single interaction to positively influence you first, not just the relationship.
- How can I honor my needs and feelings in this situation?
- With family, it can be especially difficult to recognize your own needs and what constitutes a healthy outcome of a situation. It is natural that because we want to ease any tension with our loved ones, we may completely disregard our own needs. Remember without your wellbeing, your relationship will suffer regardless.
- Is this about asserting myself and my view point, or is this about a logical outcome? Think in terms of “what’s in it for me”. Don’t fight every fight, but don’t give up a fight that is worth it. Are you trying to tolerate this person or are you trying to live with and love this person? Think Priorities and Values.
We have lots of resources when it comes to helping you navigate conflict. You don’t have to do this alone, and you certainly don’t need to brush it under a rug. It is your life, and you are meant to live joyfully. If you decide, we can help.