Starting a family can take its toll on any relationship. I can vouch that the early days can take some adjusting to, and you’d be forgiven for yearning for a time when life was simpler and your responsibilities were less. As your family extends and the kids grow up, there’s a whole new world of emotions and scenarios to navigate through. And, let’s face it, we are all guilty of taking our bad moods out on those closest to us – so it’s no wonder that family disagreements are a part of life.
However, there are things you can do to help keep them to a minimum. The first step is to recognise and appreciate that nothing can be perfect all the time and that you can do your part by considering what steps to take to prevent or resolve family disagreements in your household.
It’s widely known that listening is key but it’s easy to forget in the moment, especially when you strongly believe that your viewpoint is the correct one. So we often hear the other person but fail to listen. For a conversation to progress and develop in a positive way, all members must feel as if they are getting listened to and that their contribution is valued and respected. Imagine how you would feel if you were not treated that way. Listening can be shown by not speaking over one another, making eye contact and responding to others’ points directly. If this doesn’t happen, it may create resentment and anger and increase the likelihood of the situation escalating.
“What makes you think that?” “Have you considered this…?”. When an important decision is being made that will affect the family, ask for input freely at the dinner table or during a good time when everyone is together. Don’t instantly dismiss a viewpoint no matter how much you instinctively disagree with it. Ask why the other person thinks or feels that way. This will give you insight into their reasoning which not only shows empathy and understanding but also creates a good space for compromise and communication.
Consider how you are coming across in a disagreement, whether you are raising your voice, showing uninterested body language or are using patronising language. It’s well documented that when language is positive and welcoming, people become more receptive and open to understanding because they perceive the other person to be genuine and honest.
Of course this isn’t always easy, naturally we get frustrated or annoyed in a disagreement and that is often expressed in our language. But it’s important to catch ourselves in those situations and make the effort to come across in a better way. This also reduces the risk of future escalations because each family member will remember that disagreement doesn’t have to be heated, instead it can be a space for positive discussion.
Don’t promise things that aren’t achievable. If you’re disagreeing over how much time you spend at work and not with the family, don’t agree to work less if that simply isn’t feasible in the long term. Make compromises and promises that can actually be kept. This allows further conflict to be prevented because unrealistic expectations haven’t been set, which reduces the room for disappointment or further upset.
The reality is that all families have disagreements from time to time. The most effective ways to resolve and prevent this all comes down to positive communication.
Do you think these tips are helpful for preventing family disagreements? What others would you add?
*Tips contributed by Isabelle Jones