Angry at a Family Member? Learn Family Conflict Resolution Skills to Deal With Family Issues

dog listening to woman - family conflict resolution skill called being curious

“I just don’t understand why my brother won’t listen to me!”

I was asked this somewhat rhetorical question yesterday while explaining mediation to someone.

This woman was frustrated by how her brother berated his son in front of other people. He refused to follow her advice. She felt he was embarrassing his son for no justifiable reason.

She was curious to know what I thought of the issue as a mediator.

I asked if she knew why he behaved this way and she gave her take. I then asked if she had ever asked him why he talked to his son in a way that seemed to embarrass him. She hesitated, and then answered with a simple, “no.”

What this woman came to realize was that she really had no idea what was going on for her brother when he used such a harsh tone with her nephew in front of other people.

Was he having difficulty managing his temper?

Was he upset at something else and didn’t realize he was taking it out on his son?

Was this the 20th time that his son defied him?

Was his wife giving him a hard time for not being stern enough on his son?

So, I encouraged her to be curious.

Yes, curious.

Why Curiosity is a Great Family Conflict Resolution Technique

I do not know what she will learn if she asks him.

I do know that until she understands his perspective he will remain defensive to her well-intended suggestions. Once he feels that she understands his point of view – truly listens and understands — it will be easier for him to hear her point of view.

On a practical level, it is only with a good understanding of his underlying perspective when she can offer a suggestion that addresses the real issue.

One of My Strategies When Mediating Family Issues

She is planning to employ a communication technique that I refer to as “being curious”.

Rather than offering up her solution for the nth time in a row, she is going to approach her brother, point out that she notices that he berates his son in front of others, and ask if he could help her understand why this happens.

If she is genuinely curious about his perspective, she will likely be surprised by what she learns. And then maybe he will start to understand her perspective too.

I am a mediator but I am also a father, son, and brother.

When I get frustrated there are times — like most people — when I offer unsolicited advice.

Just ask my wife!

My unsolicited adivce only frustrates her and usually worsens the situation. Yet, when I remember to take a deep breathe and shift to my “curiosity” mindset I learn a lot about her point of view.

And when I finally do offer a suggestion it even occasionally helps!

When you get frustrated with someone, try to become curious — what you learn might be quite curious!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this mediator tip of “being curious” — please comment below!

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About the Author ()

I help families resolve conflict through family mediation and divorce mediation in Massachusetts. My services include mediation for co-parenting disputes, marriage problems, separation and divorce, parents and teenagers, and family conflicts. The goal of my mediator’s blog is to help teach or remind readers of helpful communication and conflict resolution techniques that can be used in their relationships. I live in Natick, MA with my wife, son and dog and mediate throughout the Metrowest Boston region. Please note that my name is spelled Ben Stich, not Ben Stitch.



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