Fallen out with your family? How to manage a bust-up, according to an expert

The Queen of Denmark has publicly apologised last week to her grandchildren, Victoria Beckham is apparently feuding with her daughter in law and the Harry and Wills breakup story is ongoing.

What’s going on in our families?

‘Conflict happens within families all the time,’ says Kim Korven, a former judge and lawyer turned mediation consultant known as The Conflict Queen. ‘We’re just seeing more high-profile cases right now.

‘But the good news is, it is possible to resolve family fights and get to a happier, healthier place.’

Ahead, Kim reveals the steps to take to sort out whatever family feud is troubling you right now.

Don’t lose sight of what is important

Many disputes can be headed off at the pass by remembering what’s really important.

For example, if you remember that the love of your son is more important than your feelings about your daughter in law, you can stop an argument before it starts.

Give up your need to be right

If your dispute is going to result in a rift with the person who is most important to you – are you really going to insist on ‘being right’? It’ll destroy your relationship. Focus on love.

I saw Paul McCartney perform once. He talked about John Lennon’s death and their rift. McCartney said: ‘Don’t wait for those conversations. Be the bigger person.’

The four most common reasons for family conflicts – and how to resolve them

Wills

We tend to think of the family wealth as what’s in the bank account but if parents really want relationships between their children to be preserved after they’ve died, it’s good to get clear about the will and any issues before you die.

Divorce

When a human being dies, you write a eulogy. When a relationship dies, it’s good to start divorce proceedings with writing a eulogy for the relationship, focussing on all the good points.

Weddings

Get your priorities straight. Keep your focus on love, always take the higher ground and keep reminding yourself and others what’s really important. Accept you can love someone and not like their behaviour or opinions.

In-laws

We don’t always like our in-laws. Instead of looking for through the lens of what have they done or what you don’t like, use the lens of curiosity. Ask yourself – what can you learn? What is this person supposed to teach you?

Start with conversations about good memories

Try to remember when times were good – when there was connection and love in the family, when the support was there.

At the start of your conversations try to set a positive tone – talk about when you were there for one another, what you give to each other, what you’ve been through together.

Stand in their shoes

Instead of attacking or defending, see if you can see the other person’s point of view. Have empathy for their position. Stand in their shoes and acknowledge where the other person is coming from.

And then apologise for the part you played, for the distress you have caused. And ask – how can we get beyond this?

Be curious, not furious

Don’t ask ‘why’. The word why creates defensiveness because there can be sense of judgement in asking ‘why?’.

Ask instead: ‘Help me understand this from your point of view?’. Say: ‘I’ve never thought of it that way before. Tell me more.’ Keep asking for more.

Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you can identify mutual interests. This is when everything can shift to a more positive experience.

Practice active listening

Listen carefully. Repeat what the other person has said, verbatim. They’ll feel heard. This is a powerful tool to deescalate. The other person doesn’t have to do any kind of translation if you repeat back what they’ve said word by word.

Often people get louder and more strident because they don’t feel heard.

Take a break

You don’t have to resolve it all at once. It’s okay to take a break and to finish the discussion when you’ve had time to calm down a little. It’s okay to tell the other person this in the argument: ‘We’re going to destroy our relationship if we keep at this. You matter more to me than this. Can we agree to take a break, and to return to this when we’re both calmer?’

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