“Reconciling Families” written by Katie Thorncraft and published in Great Health Guide (May 2016). Maintaining good relationships between family members can be difficult however this article has great tips on how to reconcile during arguments. Read other relationship articles on our website. Great Health Guide is a hub of expert-inspired resources empowering busy women to embody health beyond image … purpose beyond measure.
Relationships: Reconciling Families written by Katie Thorncraft
Conflict within families is inevitable, whether it be huge, noisy blow-ups or quietly simmering resentments. Research shows that conflict happens in healthy and unhealthy family relationships alike. The difference turns out to be the way that we handle the conflict rather than the fact that we have conflict at all. So bearing in mind that it’s OK to have conflict, how do we become reconciled after a big fight or a big disappointment and learn better ways to communicate?
Research has begun to shed light on the behaviours that are associated with the way conflict is managed in healthy relationships. It is important to be mindful though that the way we handle conflict is woven into the fabric of our family’s culture. Thus when we start making changes, we come in contact with unhelpful behaviours that we have learned as well as those of our family members. So it’s important to be gentle and thoughtful during reconciliation.
Here are four tips for coping with the aftermath of family conflict:
1. Take responsibility for your own emotions: This means to practice ‘self-soothing’. Take time to acknowledge your feelings, notice what they feel like in your body, you might like to place a hand over the place you feel it most intensely and breathe deeply into that space. Sit with yourself with compassion and care the way you might sit with a friend feeling sad or upset, no judgement, no problem solving, just compassion and presence. You could also journal about it for extra clarity which will help when you are ready to talk about it with your family member.
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2. Talk about your feelings: Find a time when you are both calm to bring the issue up with your family member and speak from your own perspective. Use ‘I felt’ statements rather than describing their behaviour. It is very tempting to tell the other person all the things that they did wrong but it is also very likely to trigger another argument so try to stick to your feelings and keep it relevant to the specific situation at hand, rather than bringing up past incidents for extra ammunition!
3. You should ask for what you need: This is a big one for women! Before you go into the conversation, have a think about what it was that you really needed. Was it a feeling of being supported? Loved? Respected? How would that look in an ideal world? Asking for what we need seems simple enough, but it can be very confronting as it can tap into our biggest fears so be gentle with yourself!
4. Acknowledge the other person and take responsibility for your part: Acknowledging how the other person is feeling does not mean that you fully agree with them and it doesn’t mean you’re in
the wrong but it is immensely powerful for both of you to be really heard and understood. Let them know that you can see what they are going through! Relationships are a two-way street and most of the time if we are really honest we can identify where things went wrong at our end. Be brave enough to speak up about this.
So next time conflict shows up in your family, take it as an opportunity to practice your skills and learn more about the people you love.
Conflict can actually create more connection in relationships if it is approached as an opportunity to listen, communicate and connect!
Author of this article:
Katie Thorncraft is a registered psychologist who works with individuals, couples and families. Katie’s approach to therapy is practical, empathetic and experiential and utilises a range of evidence based approaches. Katie has extensive experience working with trauma and anxiety disorders and her approach is focussed on supporting people to connect more deeply with themselves and each other and to realise the full potential of their relationships and lives. Katie also has many years’ experience working within the corporate world and offers coaching in this area.
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