Communication is an important factor in managing family conflict. Unresolved disagreements can result in stress for both parents and children, difficulty in everyday interactions, and increased frequency of arguments. While there is no way to completely avoid family conflict, being able to send clear verbal and nonverbal messages and engage in active listening can help lessen the impact and keep it under control.
Types of Conflict
Family conflict can occur between between parents and children, between siblings, or between spouses. How family members approach a confrontation can mean the difference between positive or negative effects on the family unit. Productive conflict can help a family become closer and assist members in moving through their problems. However, in its destructive form, it can be detrimental to any relationship.
How Communication Helps
Healthy communication -- which includes listening, being positive, respecting the opinions and feelings of others, and staying calm -- can help family members be more receptive to each other during a conflict. Open and honest communication can aid in problem solving and can help family members acknowledge any underlying issues involved in conflict. It can also increase the likelihood the original cause of a conflict will not lead to future problems on the same subject.
Unhealthy Communication Styles
When family members adopt unhealthy styles of interaction or have difficulty relating to each other altogether, disagreements can become more intense or be prolonged. Examples include exhibiting extreme emotions, changing the subject, making excuses, blaming others, and being rude. According to Leanne Knobloch, an expert in interpersonal communication and conflict resolution, having the same arguments over and over as a result of unresolved, ongoing conflict and can cause harmful effects on personal well-being and the health of relationships.
Tips for Positive Communication
Once family members learn what skills work during conflict, they can incorporate them in future disagreements. It is important to pay attention to the verbal and nonverbal cues of everyone involved in an interaction. Other suggestions include being open to conflicting views, welcoming compromise and avoiding resentment or negativity during and after the conflict. According to Rick Peterson, an assistant professor of Human Resources, families that communicate in healthy ways are more capable of problem-solving and tend to be more satisfied in their relationships.
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