NOTE: This is an article I wrote for WikiHow. You can check out the original by following the links above … or just read it here …
Families fight. Even good families disagree. But bitter, hateful, long-lasting wars do not belong in homes among family members sworn to love and support each other. Here are some steps to resolve disputes in your family.
- Calm down. Very little positive is accomplished between angry people. Emotions can interfere with clear thoughts and angry emotions will especially interfere with understanding and empathy. Even though it’s hard to just calm down when you’re angry, this is an absolute must if you want a chance to solve anything. Take a walk, take a shower, take a breathing break. Whatever works for you, just get some air between you and the anger.
- Rejoin. Agree to meet to work together. Set an appointment. Set a date. Call a mediator. Find a time and place to work where you will not be likely to reengage in the battle. Perhaps a public restaurant will keep you from blowing up. Perhaps a formal meeting with a licensed mediator. Perhaps a session with a minister who you would be reluctant to loose your calm before. But set a time and place.
- Think. Don’t just emote, going over and over your argument, getting worked up again. Instead, use the time before your mediation session to plot your approach, develop your points, consider all options, decide upon a possible settlement. List both sides and look for both positive and negative to each. Prepare.
- Be positive. This is your opportunity to lead the process and show the other side how serious you are about settling the dispute. Go into the meeting head up, smiling, positive, leaning toward a good solution.
- Follow the leader. If you use a professional mediator, he or she will have guidelines. If you handle the mediation on your own, look up professional mediation procedures (http://www.FamilyMediator.org/procedures.html) and follow those. The more formalized the process, the better the chance of its being taken seriously. Important guidelines include: A) take turns talking (don’t interrupt); B) repeat what was just said to show you’re listening; C) list, list, list every suggestion; D) quit if anyone gets angry – take a break to breathe; E) write down your agreement
- Document, Whatever your outcome, write it down and have both sides sign. This, again, formalizes the process, adds gravity, and helps both sides remember what they agreed to.
- Review if necessary. If the agreement begins to fall apart, re-convene the mediation and confirm the agreement. If amendments are necessary, follow the original mediation process.
- If the argument is very personal or volatile, get professional help.
- Find a neutral place to meet.
- Get a mediator who is either neutral or respected by both sides.
- Document everything!
- Celebrate success. Reward yourselves for doing good.
- Both sides must be willing to at least try.
- Don’t meet for too long. Long mediations turn into endurance contests. Stop when you get tired or frustrated. Agree when to pick up again.
- Avoid a mediator who may have reason to take either side. Your mother will not be a good mediator.
- Keep your voices down. No yelling.
- No insults. No accusatory “you” statements.
- Focus on only one topic at a time. If something else comes up, make a note and come back to it later.
- Leave the past in the past. Focus on now and the future.
Sources and Citations
- FamilyMediator.org for information on how to conduct successful mediations