The Disruption of Family
Members in Disagreement

Dog Parents in Disagreement

The disruption caused by family members in disagreement can make us question our relationships and how we should navigate them.  It also teaches us about love.

Family dynamics vary for many reasons – culture, religion, and historic precedence among them – but the environment we grow up in shapes how we show up in the world.  Constant exposure to family members in disagreement can make someone growing up in that environment a disagreeable person, a contrarian, or even the type who is always looking for a fight.

But a different perspective on the situation might make another person appreciate how, even when dealing with discord, their family stuck together.  However, a big contributor to this type of perspective is the level of disruption in the family and how etiquette-fully disagreements are handled.

Navigating Family Disagreements

Your family is the group of people with whom you most want to feel respected, listened to, and engaged.  Family bonds come naturally to the majority of people and are very difficult to break. Which is why severe disagreements feel so unnatural and can cause emotional disruption.

There are many things that can put family members in disagreement:

  • Money or finances
  • Sibling squabbles over “things”
  • Family members’ concern about “fairness”
  • In-law related issues
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Care of elderly parents
  • Step-child/step-parent issues
  • Discipline disagreements

All the above reasons stem from living life together as a family unit.  They are among the many things families face on a daily basis that have the potential to cause two or more people to disagree.

But it is how we handle the disagreement that matters.  Choosing to be in a relationship of any type means that compromise, admitting we are wrong, or maybe even letting someone else think they are right will become necessary at some point.

A commitment to finding the best resolution for all involved will go a long way to etiquette-fully handling discord.  Some ways to minimize conflict are:

  • Expectations need to be clear and acknowledged.  (Children, too, have expectations.)
  • Encourage open communication.
  • Claim your own feelings.  But remember: thoughts are not feelings.
  • Each person can agree to watch their tone and volume.
  • Listen carefully, hear behind the words.
  • Ask for clarification. “Mom, I am sensing that there is more you’d like so say.”
  • Choose the high road, especially when conflicts arise.
  • Work towards solutions that everyone can live with.

A valuable nugget of etiquette-ful advice for family health can be found in this quote by Rumi:
“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

When emotions thunder out, others easily slip into reaction mode.

Witnessing Family Members in Disagreement

Learning to “control what you can control” is key when witnessing conflict between other family members.  And it is okay to make this clear to those in a squabble who may try to bring you into the ring with them in an effort to remain etiquette-fully disengaged.

  • Take a deep breathe!
  • Realize you can’t “fix” others.
  • Be direct.  “Family, I’m feeling very uncomfortable.  I’m listening, but I’m going to be quiet and be a background observer.”
  • Help to clarify:  
    “Mary, do I hear you saying that you don’t feel heard?”  
    “John, did I hear you say that you wish we could all speak, one person at a time?”
  • Steer away from trigger topics.  “Can we totally stay away from talking about other family members as if they weren’t here? I know how I’d feel if it were me.”
  • Always use “I” when speaking about yourself.
  • To the group: “Family, are we stuck in a familiar place?  What can each of us do to back out of this?”

Perhaps the most important thing everyone involved can do is remember that being in a family naturally creates an environment packed with individual differences; with differences in interests, beliefs, wants, and expectations.  When dealing with family members in disagreement, restoring peace should always be a top priority.

This article is published for the purpose of providing tips on etiquette-fully handling disagreements and discord.  Both of which are different from abuse.

If you are in an abusive situation, please seek help from an appropriate source.  Call 800-799-SAFE (7233).

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