A guide to resolving conflict at home

Conflict is a natural part of everyday life. If you’re a parent, a child, a carer, an employee, an employee you’ll probably face conflict in some form or another every single day.  

 Everyone has their own natural conflict style, so being aware of yours and working to make your conflict style more collaborative than combative can often lead to a more positive outcome for everyone.   

This article was written from a talk with a group of parents in Hertfordshire as part of Just Talk Week 2020, with the aim of giving people background to conflict styles, and some practical tools to resolve conflict within the home.  

Conflict Styles

There are 5 main identified conflict styles: Avoiding, Accommodating, Compromising, Authoritarian, and Joint-problem solving. I’ve worked with upwards of 7000 families over the past 15 years, so I’ve seen all of the styles in action. This first section talks through each of the styles and offers pros and cons for using this style – see if you can see your own natural conflict style here… 

(The pros and cons were suggestions from the group and are by no means exhaustive – see if you can think of any others as you go through this process.)

Avoider

This person avoids conflict at all costs (e.g. computer games) 

  • Pros: Path of least resistance. You don’t have the heat, tension, slammed doors, less distress for you and them. The phrase “pick your battles” comes up a lot.  
  • Cons: Issue / undesirable feeling doesn’t get fixed, you still have the feelings and have internalised them, resentment builds. 

 

Accommodator

This person will start to have the conversation but then bail out and do it themselves (e.g. laying the table) 

  • Pros: Less drama, the job gets done, you take back control. 
  • Cons: You end up doing everything yourself, not teaching or developing the other, sets a precedent, builds frustration, it always costs you. They learn to wait you out, and know you’ll concede. It can be exhausting and exasperating!  

 

Compromiser (aka negotiation / bribery) 

This person will offer something in return for something else e.g. chores in return for treats / time on computer 

  • Pros: Develop good skills for working with people, you each give a little, you’re working together, building trust, they’re taking some responsibility and gaining ownership, choice and an understanding of consequences. 
  • Cons: Feel like you’ve given in, having to negotiate all the time (can be exhausting!), takes time which you might not always have.  

 

Authoritarian

this person will take charge and set the rules (e.g. taking phone away for bad behavior) 

  • Pros: Everyone knows where they stand, clear boundaries and expectations, stability, ensuring the rules are stuck to, teaching respect and safety, saves time. 
  • Cons: Causes conflict, could have a lasting impact, you feel bad or mean, kids react negatively, they don’t own the solution, doesn’t teach responsibility. 

 

Joint problem-solver

 

this person will engage the other person in a process to create a jointly agreed solution 

This is the approach that we advocate at BeeZee Bodies. The process goes something like this: 

 

  1. You explain your point of view – they listen 
  2. They explain their point of view – you listen 
  3. Work on a solution together that you’re both happy with 
  4. You run the experiment to see if it works 
  5. If it doesn’t, you work together to understand why and try a different solution 

 

Note: This approach needs to be attempted when you are removed from a situation where the conflict occurred, or else people could become defensive. 

 

  • Pros: It fosters mutual respect, both sides are bought into solution, the opposing party feels heard. 
  • Cons: takes lots of time and can’t be done at the time of the issue, can be hard to stick to, not useful when conflict occurs.  
Your own response...

Now you know about the conflict styles, here’s a short exercise to get you thinking about which your natural style is. Read the following few scenarios – how would you naturally respond, and which style do you think is?… 

  • Someone pushes in front of you in the Queue at the supermarket. 
  • Someone is talking in the row behind you at the cinema.  
  • Someone pulls in front of you in the car. How do you respond in the car? What if they pull over and you have an opportunity to talk to them? Would your response be different? 
  • A friend asked you if they look good in an outfit, but you don’t think they do? 
  • A child asks you for a treat for the 50th time today 

Another key element to consider is that we don’t always react the same. Our reaction could be affected by what state are we in – are we tiredStressed? How much time do we have? Where are we? What time of day it is? 

Ultimately it helps to get to a stage where we are able to choose our conflict style. We promote the joint problem-solving style, although it’s not always easy. 

 

Joint problem solving in action

Here’s an example of using the joint problem-solving approach and the steps you’d take together. 

 

  1. Find a situation in which you can talk openly (in the car, on the walk to school, before bed) 
  2. When you’re both relaxed, initiate the conversation 
  3. Introduce what you want to change and the reason for it 
  4. Ask them to explain why they want to do these things and what benefits they get from doing them (there maybe things that surprise you!)  
  5. Work together to create some new rules, and consequences that you agree are fair 
  6. Write them down and stick them somewhere visible 
  7. Run the experiment! 

 

When it doesn’t work… 

 

I hate to sound like a pessimist (I prefer realist), but I’ve worked with enough families to know that it doesn’t always go plain sailing.  

 

Here’s what happens when they don’t stick to the rules….  

 

  1. Follow through with the consequence as you’d agreed 
  2. Let the fallout happen (if it does) 
  3. Make a plan for when you’ll next have a sensible conversation (perhaps when you’re next in the situation where you can talk openly) 
  4. When you get to the situation, use the following sentence:“I wanted to chat to you about the <insert issue> that happened earlier / yesterday. Obviously, we ran the experiment and it didn’t totally work. I’m not mad about that, we knew it was just an experiment, and sometimes they don’t work out the first-time round – we might need to change it slightly. We both agreed on the plan, and we both agreed that it was fair – do you still think it’s fair?”
  5. If they say no, they may still be in a defensive or bargaining mode – if this is the case say you’ll talk to them about it again when they’re ready and make a plan to address is again the following day. 
  6. If they say yes, you can say: “Okay, what happened to throw our plan off course, and what can we change to make it work better next time?” 
  7. Agree any changes to the rule and update them up somewhere visible again 
  8. Re-run the experiment

Resolving conflict is not always straight forward, but the more often you adopt this approach, the more natural it will become for you both…. And if you fly off the handle and completely forget, then don’t beat yourself up. Life happens. You can always try again next time! 

Responsive site designed and developed by