Family fights are never pleasant. Whether you are dealing with whining kids, shut-down teenagers, or a stubborn spouse, the reaction to conflict is messy. At least that’s what we have learned to expect.
What if it could be different? What if family fights and conflicts could be turned into opportunities to become closer? What if problems could be solved with everyone walking away feeling more deeply cared for and loved?
Family fighting is, at one level, about power. Someone is telling someone else what to do. The unwilling recipient is resisting, which itself is an exercise of power. In a flash, emotions are escalated and the fight is on. You can go down that old road or you can try something different. Here are six ways to use a family fight to bring everyone closer.
Don’t Fight Power with Power – Our first reaction is to push back when we have been pushed. Ever wonder why that is? Really, why do we push back against an argumentative child? There are a lot of rationalizations and justifications, some of which have limited merit. The real reason for our unconscious reaction is programming: it’s what we learned as children. In fact, the very first conflict resolution lesson most adults learned was “He who has the most power wins.” Think about the lesson from the perspective of two years old. It is indelible because at two, we are essentially powerless and completely dependent. That lesson is never corrected so that as adults, we react as we learned when two years old: Resist power. The problem is that this reaction is unconscious and therefore often counterproductive.
Earn Your Turn – In any fight, you have a need to be listened to and understood. That need may be overwhelming. You want your child to listen and obey. You want your spouse to listen and understand. You want your friend to listen and care. At the same time, the person you are fighting has the same need to be listened to. People raise their voices and shout at each other because they are not being listened to. It’s totally unconscious. When you pay attention to arguments, you will see it. The need to be listened to drives most family conflicts. If you can put aside your need for a few minutes, the landscape will change rapidly. This is called earning your turn. You have to earn your turn to be listened to.