Managing Family Conflict with Respect

Managing Family Conflict with Respect

It is an unusual family that does not, at some point, go through a period of conflict. Work, money, relationships, growing children, wider family – all of these can cause arguments within the household. In fact, given that problems are likely to arise, many psychotherapist feel that is healthy that these are brought out into the open. However, it is thought that up to 70% of people have a difficult relative somewhere in their household, in the immediate or extended family.

So, let us consider some of the ways families can manage their disagreements with the kind of respect that will not only resolve conflict but enhance relationships.

Know your position

As much as we may not wish to face up to it, many conflicts are actually our own fault. Sometimes, we are unclear of what we expect from others. Therefore, we become frustrated when our relatives or close family fail to live up to the expectations we are not clear about ourselves. We become angry with them, and they return the favor. I suggest you write down our expectations of others, to clarify them for ourselves. The process of organizing thoughts in writing is a useful tool for identifying what we feel.


Make it a priority in developing good listening skills. Often, poor or unsociable behavior stems from a person feeling that their concerns are not considered. An effective, active listener gives the person the opportunity to express their feelings. However, active listening can be difficult for some. Most of the time, when we think we are listening we are actually preparing our next comment. Equally, however unpalatable it may sound, we must give the person the opportunity of saying what they wish to say. Unacceptable comments can be challenged later. Finally, a good listener shows that they are listening. Eye contact is made, an open body position is maintained and the listener nods, or repeats words to show that they are empathizing.

Is it the “Problem” or the person

Focus concentrating on the problem, not blaming the person. For example, your thirteen year old son has been caught smoking. Rather than losing your temper, issuing impossible threats and ruining any chance of a sensible dialogue, find out why he was smoking. Consider the influence of peer pressure. While he needs to know that there will be some consequences, involve him in the process of setting them. Most of all, explain the dangers to his long term health.


Stress the importance of negotiation. When a conflict arises, it is rare that all parties do not feel that they are mostly in the right. While we may start from this position, recognition that to resolve the problem everyone will need to make a shift in their stance will help. This means that people are less likely to back themselves into a corner from which they cannot escape.

These are four general ways in which conflict can be respectfully addressed. Where such measures are insufficient, families should remember that professional help is always available. Better to sort a problem quickly, before it becomes entrenched.

Your Secrets Will Make You Sick

Your Secrets Will Make You Sick

I know many of us have read  or heard the story TMZ broke about this incident over the past few days with Houston rapper, Z-Ro and his ex-girlfriend.

As a psychotherapist, here in Houston who works with high conflict individuals, couples, families, and groups, I wanted to weigh in on this situation.  I’ve read so many comments stating, “She’s wrong for speaking up three months after the alleged incident,” and “She’s trying to capitalize on her upcoming show or make money off this incident.” Then there are comments about Z-Ro and a history of abusing women and yes-he-did-it/no-he-didn’t-do-it comments.

None of us know the truth about what goes on inside a relationship between two people.  However, we all know intimate partner violence is nothing new. As a matter of fact, research from the CDC shows that one in four women has been abused at some point in her lifetime. Research also shows that men are being abused as well, just at a smaller percentage. One in four women? With those statistics, If we’d all keep it real, there’s a good chance we all know someone, or you are that someone, who is in a similar intimate partner violence situation, just barely escaped it, or recently came out of it.

In my practice with women who abuse, men who abuse, and my overall work with high conflict individuals, couples, and families, I hear of every type of incident you could think of as it relates to intimate partner violence. The idea of waiting weeks, months, or years to report domestic violence is not uncommon among victims of abuse. I’ve heard stories of women waiting twenty years to report incidences of violence due to fear, shame, humiliation, and trauma. These victims also site their wish to simply survive, take care of their kids, and stay alive as other reasons for not reporting the abuse. I also hear from men who are remorseful and embarrassed of the violence they’ve perpetrated against their significant others and children.

I noticed several comments on social media asking  why or how people remained in that type of relationship. There are several individual, societal or relationship factors that indicate why a person might choose to enter into or remain in high conflict, abusive relationships.  As a child who witnessed violence growing up, I, too, once questioned what would make a person remain in a violent relationship. Violence is a learned behavior, thus in speaking or working with domestic violence victims or perpetrators, my first objective is to seek and understand where did he or she learn such behaviors.

As a society, I encourage each and every one of us to explore our own relationship, reflect on the behaviors we witnessed growing up, what we’re modeling and representing to our children, and how we treat each other in relationships. Make today your last day of allowing your personal secrets of shame, embarrassment, and humiliation to have power over your life. Your secrets will literally make you sick. Seek your truth, speak your truth, and seek to understand trauma related issues such as intimate partner violence and its impact on individuals and families without passing judgment, pointing the finger or shaming the victim. After all, exposing those secrets is the first step toward healing.




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