I think that conflict is part of the human experience in groups.
Honestly, many of us will even experience inner conflict with ourselves so sometimes even avoiding groups won’t eliminate conflict.
Conflict is a part of life.
Searching for ways to minimize conflict is an ongoing challenge.
In this article I’m writing about conflict in blended families. What causes or creates conflict and what each of us can do to improve our relationships and reduce conflict.
Blended families are my specialty but before I dive into that I want to openly say that all groups experience conflict including traditional nuclear families. I mention this because if there is any part of you that thinks that you have more conflict because you are in a blended family I just want you to consider that it may or may not be helping you to think this.
I have a theory that many conflicts in blended families can be segmented into 4 separate but interconnected categories.
The reason I start here is that as a coach I have found that sometimes determining the source or origin of a conflict can be very helpful in helping to make a plan or path forward with less conflict.
Those categories are money, control, communication, trust.
Each of these categories can be a source of conflict and also at the same time these each of these can be places to focus on growth to decrease conflict.
Let’s take a look at each of these categories a little bit.
Money is one of the best known sources of conflict in a relationship.
This is not just families but also business partnerships and even just friendships.
Money can bring up all kinds of emotions and thoughts. One of the interesting things about conflict over money is that more money can reduce the conflict but also people with lots and lots of money also have conflict over money. More money is not always a solution. Sometimes it is. Not always.
There are entire businesses built on coaching people about money.
In a family … well having a family can be very expensive. So money becomes a top topic to squabble over. In blended families this is also true and sometimes if money was part of the reason that a family split then it can even be amplified.
I said earlier that each of these were sources of conflict and also tools. What I mean is that plenty of people fight about money. Also, learning more about money and your beliefs on money can help reduce conflict over money.
Learning to talk to the people in your family about money can also really help.
Control is a top source of conflict in any group including families.
In this article I’m writing about blended families but this is also accurate in a lot of other types of group dynamics. When you think about groups and control think back as far as playing with friends as a kid. The person who was in control of the game was a big part of how fun the game would be.
When we talk about control there is actually being and feeling like you are in control. Then there is the feeling of not feeling like you are in control or feeling like you should be in control but nobody sees you as that person. In a blended family a step-parent can feel like they have responsibility to do things but they aren’t seen as being the adult in control and it can create a lot of friction.
Control is also a giant source of conflict with children of all ages.
Pretty much nobody likes the feeling of being told what to do. This is especially true with toddlers and teenagers.
Being able to see how control plays out in your family can really help to reduce conflict. And talking and communicating about control is can really help as well.
Communication is key in any relationship.
Good communication helps relationships. Less good communication can create struggles and conflicts in families and blended families.
How we communicate is directly related to how we will feel in many situations.
One of the foundational thoughts in my coaching practice is that most people have a desire to feel heard by others and without this there is often conflict.
There are so many ways that communication can get interrupted or misunderstood and be less effective.
I think about the very common scene in my hometown of Miami where two people are trying to communicate but they speak two different languages. This actually can be done in a variety of ways but often one person will simply try to raise their voice and repeat the same thing over and over … just louder. Sadly, it doesn’t help.
The great thing about this is that communication is a skill. Improving communication is something that can usually be taught to people of all ages.
The other really good thing about communication is that in a group if one person has good communication skills that makes a big difference to the group dynamics. Not everybody in the group absolutely needs to improve their skills. That would be awesome but if one person in a family commits to improving their communication skills often it can impact the entire family.
Trust is a place where conflict breaks through in families.
In a blended family sometimes there are people who have been deeply hurt by others in the group. Trust is like a pillar that holds all the other things up and makes them solid.
Without trust everything else is really a lot harder and more likely to be high conflict.
Working to identify what happened to break the trust can be helpful in moving forward. Setting up boundaries to protect against future opportunities to be hurt again can also help.
Communication becomes critical in times where there is a trust violation. Many people who are in a situation where there has been a breach of trust may struggle to even speak it outloud.
To move forward after a trust violation takes good communication. Even if you don’t want to repair the relationship if you have to exist in a family where trust has been broken communication skills are important.
This is not just in marriage or divorce. Also parents establishing trust with adolescents. Teenagers are famous for breaking the trust of their parents. Being able to communicate about these topics is super helpful.
Also trust between friends and siblings is a place where conflict can break through.
Identifying what trust means to you. Seeing trust violations clearly and learning how to communicate clearly and without creating more conflict these are great skills to work on to reduce conflict in your life.
Why is it worth it to work on reduce conflict?
Conflict doesn’t feel good. Some people are admittedly more comfortable with conflict than others but overall most people I meet prefer less conflict in their lives because they feel better.
The goal is probably not zero conflict because there is always at least some conflict anytime you have two different people in the same space.
Actually I’ll let you in on a secret it’s not really actually reducing the actual conflict but it’s more about changing how we might react to what the people around us do and say.
We work on reducing conflict because it helps us enjoy our life and feel better about ourselves.
The top way that I personally have found to reduce conflict around me is in having ninja-like communications skills.
If you’ve made it through this article you might have noticed that not only is communication it’s one section that can directly be a cause of conflict I also list it in every category as a tool to reduce conflict from those sources.
Communication is more than just how you say things. It’s also listening and sometimes deciding not to say things.
Communicating is a skill. It’s like math or vocabulary. You can learn it and practice it.
I’ve put together a list of 7 tips for how you can improve communications and reduce conflict. I encourage you all to go ahead and pick that up for yourself.