We can support you with:

  • Estrangement from family members
  • Money problems
  • Work life balance affecting your family
  • Blended family integration issues
  • Substance misuse and addictions harming the family
  • Grief, loss and sadness
  • Family disagreements especially in big families
  • Parenting problems
  • Problems with in-laws
  • Grand parenting disagreements
  • Family business disputes

Things you might try yourself

If you find yourself in the midst of family issues you may be feeling stuck, powerless, sad, angry or filled with frustration. While these feelings are normal, it’s important that you take care of yourself while navigating the situation. Saying or doing things that you may come to regret later is not a good use of your resources even if you believe you are justified. Remember, all those texts and emails may show up later on long after you have moved on.

Often, the simplest and most effective way to resolve a dispute is to speak to the other person face to face and with a friendly tone and manner. People are often unaware that their behaviour is having an impact on others and most are receptive if approached in a respectful and positive way. Sometimes, as unfair as it might seem, the very thing you want the other person to do relies entirely on their goodwill and telling someone off is less likely to get the outcome you want.

Of course, you may believe that you have exhausted all possibilities and that talking is not working. Maybe there is a lot at stake. For example, there is a big difference between speaking to someone compassionately about a habit that is driving you mad, and trying to negotiate with someone in the family who is self-harming or harming others.

Most important is not to bite off more than you can chew and consider whether you can manage this alone, whether you need support, or whether professional help is needed.

Whatever you decide, preparation is everything. Don’t imagine that you can have such a conversation ‘off the cuff’.

Ask yourself the purpose of the conversation. Is it to take the temperature of the situation? Is it to understand other points of view? Is it to make something known and on the table? Is it to restore the relationship even if you disagree?

If your purpose is to influence, persuade or challenge the other person to take your side or give in to your point of view, you are very likely going to escalate the situation no matter how well meaning you are.

  • Consider and reflect on what you want to say beforehand. Keep it simple.
  • Be clear about exactly what the problem is – have an example in mind – think about how it affects you.
  • Think about the outcome you would like and how that might impact the other person. Is it reasonable and proportionate?
  • Imagine how you would like to be approached and spoken to. It may be helpful to practice this with a friend.
  • Avoid words that sound accusatory or blaming. The other person may have little or no idea that what they are doing has any impact on you or the extent of how you feel.
  • Prepare yourself to listen to the other person. Imagine how you would like to be heard. Practice hearing something you find inflammatory and responding calmly.
  • Ask a friend to let you ‘vent’ or ‘offload’ before you meet the other person. Be particular in asking them not to give an opinion but to simply listen and empathise. And ask the same friend or a different friend to be there afterwards so you can talk about how it went.
  • Consider how long you have waited to deal with the problem. Your frustration may be partly because you didn’t say something sooner. Consider how the other person might react to your tone of voice.

Ten top tips for navigating family issues

If you want peace and harmony in the family, you have to do your bit even if others are in conflict.  Here are some top tips to not make it worse:

Keep calm: remember that the family is a community. To be in community people need fairness. Not everything that happens will be fair and you will not like some strategies or outcomes. Remaining calm will help to create a peaceful space for when the time comes to sort it out.

Care: when things happen that you don’t agree with try to hear everyone’s point of view non judgementally and without giving an opinion or taking a side. Make time later to find out how people are; check in with them. You will be regarded as fair when you do that.

Take care of you: think about your own well being. For example, your tolerances will be different if you have slept well. If you have pressures in your life it will affect your ability to see the world calmly. When you take care of your wellbeing others see you as balanced and centred.

Be assertive: when you feel motivated to act, be assertive. Have the courage to let others know how the situation is affecting the family including yourself. Express yourself clearly and articulately without aggression.

Respond, don’t react: take time to ensure that you are giving a heartfelt response rather than a kneejerk reaction to any situation. Your counsel will be sought when you can be trusted not to react.

Respect: learn what respect means to individuals. Do not take sides, gossip, disclose confidential information or collude with one group to fix things.

Check your intentions: if your intentions are honourable you will be credible. If your intentions are to damage or hurt others in order to be right or to exclude someone from the family, you will court conflict.

Anticipate difficulties: if you can sense a problem looming, nip it in the bud. Communicate your concerns as early as possible in a process. Ask for specific help or offer specific help.

Remain open minded: Remember that the world would be a very boring place if everyone agreed on everything. If you wish to voice an opinion, be sure to balance it with other opinions.

Keep a space open for healing: Remember that nothing is permanent no matter how intense it seems. U turns are made. Apologies can be forthcoming, and harmony can be restored when the past is put firmly in the past. Accept that all families go through conflict, and this may be the best your family can manage right now AND it can change with the passage of time.


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    Talking to the other person

    • Speaking face to face is probably the best approach so you can work towards a solution. Remember that they might not be expecting you so their initial reaction may be embarrassment or shock. If you notice the person is taken aback, it might be better just to agree another time to talk about it.
    • You may prefer to write a letter or send an email or text, but the meaning or tone of words can easily be misunderstood. On the other hand, a polite note may give them time to reflect on a response especially if you explain that this is your reason for writing.
    • Choose your time. Choose a time when you will both have time to talk. When you are both rushing out may not be the best time, nor late at night, nor when you are feeling most frustrated about the issue, nor at any family gathering and especially when alcohol is in the mix.
    • Whatever approach you choose, remember that a problem takes time to build up. It is rarely possible to really solve a problem in one conversation. Even if you think it is unfair, problems take time and goodwill on all sides to resolve.
    • Stay calm. Even if you do not like or agree with the way the other person responds to you, try to stay calm. Getting angry will not help.
    • Before you begin with the problem, clearly state that your intention is to find a workable solution for both of you.
    • Remember that just because you believe something it doesn’t mean it is the truth.
    • Explain exactly what the problem is, and how it affects you.

    For example:

    “When you swear and raise your voice, my children get distressed”

    “When you disclosed what I said to your son, I lost trust in any confidentiality between us”

    • Listen to what the other person has to say. Think about what they are saying, and their point of view. Better results can be achieved if both sides understand the other person’s situation.
    • Stick to the issue in hand. Try not to get side tracked onto other issues. Try not to bring up incidents from the past.
    • Be positive. Try to think of solutions to the problem that might satisfy you both. The other person is not likely to be responsive if you are simply giving them an order to change their behaviour without any consideration for their situation.
    • If the other person is not positive or not responsive, you may be better to ask if you can both think about the problem and have another meeting. Many people do not respond well when they feel under pressure. Giving them time to ‘sleep on it’ may produce a better response.
    • It is also helpful to come up with ideas and solutions which can be discussed as possibilities:

    For example:

    “Would it be ok for you if we agree a level at which you can play your music that does not disturb me?”

    “Could we agree on what can be kept confidential and what you feel you would need to speak to other family members about”

    If you sense any escalation on either side, politely and firmly end the conversation and leave:

    For example:

    “Okay, I can see this is upsetting you and that is not my intention. My intention is only to sort something out. Let’s leave it for now and maybe we can address it another time.”

    “I didn’t expect that we would find it difficult to discuss this, so let’s leave it for now and perhaps we can pick this up when we’ve both had time to reflect”

    • Do not end the meeting with any tone of hostility.

    If you cannot imagine remaining calm or listening to the other person, if just thinking about the problem or the person sets you off or if you can only imagine the other person as bad or wrong, you probably need a Dialogue Road Map Facilitator.

    We would love to answer your questions, hear your experiences, talk more about our work and explore opportunities.

    Please email us here.