Dear Stavroula

Αsk Stavroula: How to Deal with Family Quarrels Better

The festive days of Christmas and the New Year bring joy, but sometimes they also have their difficulties. Families spend more time together, gather at family tables, laugh, talk… and quarrel.

Problems that may exist in the family come to the surface and sometimes even more intensely than in other periods. Financial issues, inheritance issues, loans and repayments, and problems with in-laws are some of the most common causes of tension during the festive season.

The parent-child relationship can also be sorely tested during the holidays. Communicating with teens has always been difficult, especially nowadays with the development of technology. Children’s over-use of electronics and cellphones, reluctance to share family moments, and ingratitude and rudeness can be sources of conflict within the family.

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to avoid conflicts – but there are ways to manage them better. Here is a list of some of my methods:

I choose my battles

We need to think and decide if it is worthwhile to get involved in a conflict or if it would be more beneficial for everyone to let it go. If, indeed, it is worthwhile to deal with the issue that has arisen, then perhaps it would help to discuss it with those involved.

Discussing does not mean imposing

In order to resolve disputes effectively, it is important to be willing to listen to the other side and not to want to impose our point of view or position.

Resolving the dispute does not mean compromising on principles and priorities

Sweeping problems under the rug does not mean they are overcome. Sometimes, in order to keep our relationships healthy and to evolve, some conflicts are necessary, as is setting limits on the behavior of others.

I really listen

Most of the time, when we talk we look for the opportunity to say what we want without really listening to what our interlocutor is telling us. And yet one of the most powerful tools for improving relationships is active listening, that is, the ability to be really present in a conversation, to listen to words but also to observe the way something is said, so that we can discern emotions behind the words and be able to understand the other better. We can even confirm if we have understood correctly, for example, by asking “what I understand from what you said is… Is that really so?”

I admit my mistakes

We usually know when our behavior hurts or offends someone. Only the recognition of our mistake can resolve the conflict. When we apologize, it is also good to then avoid any sentence with…”but…” In cases where upsetting the other person is unintentional, we can ask, “did I upset you with my words? Help me understand what I did wrong.”

I do not use the second person in my statements

Many times, when we quarrel, we usually say “you make me feel…” and the description of our feelings follows. This can often make things even worse, because there is a chance that our interlocutor will feel that we are giving him responsibilities that do not belong to him, and he will defend himself with another attack. What might help the most is to express ourselves with emphasis on our own feelings: “Every time this happens, I feel…” In this way, the other person better understands what may be bothering us and how we feel.

I give simple explanations, state my intention, and apologize

When our interlocutor is ready to listen, we explain honestly and as simply as possible what led us to behave in a way that caused the conflict, and why we regret it.

I ask for help

If the problem that has arisen is major and difficult to solve, then maybe it is better to ask for help. We can talk to someone we know and trust to be objective and ask for their opinion on how to manage the conflict that has arisen in our family, or we can even ask the opinion of an expert.


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