A Culture of Dialogue: The Psychology Behind Family Disputes and How to Resolve Them

Some families are toxic. They pass poisonous habits, attitudes, and values onto others in the family, business, or other relationships. Toxic personalities injure, weaken, and destroy others. And, such families need focused and long-term professional help.

But, family disputes are not necessarily toxic. Most family disputes are common and natural. Just think of those with adolescents in the house! Most family disputes are healthy. As Psychology Today notes, “When you come to think of it, an essential part of marriage is quickly resolving the endless difference of opinion about everything from decorating to how to manage the children.”

Of course, the rate of divorce proves how difficult it can be to resolve family conflicts. So, it’s important to understand the psychology of family disputes and how to resolve them.

A culture of dialogue

Typical family disputes lead to behavioral changes like anger, avoidance, jealousy, and passive/aggressive responses. If they worsen, family members may pursue substance abuse or develop anxiety, depression, or other psychological disorders. And, the circumstances and conditions spread their influence to other family members.

Faced with family disputes, families should turn to counseling sooner than later because these problems do not get better with age. A solution to these negative behaviors and seemingly impossible resolution lies in advice from a professional mediator.

Mediation calls on a neutral mediator to assist clients in finding unique resolutions to their own distinct conflicts. And, it’s this advice that creates a culture of dialogue.

The mediator is trained to facilitate discussion and collaboration among the parties to the family disputes to help them discover and craft the best possible resolution of the conflict. If the dispute has approached litigation, the respective lawyers may participate. But, the mediator keeps the parties to the dispute involved in a culture of dialogue in a process that makes them part of the solution as well.

Because the disputants craft the outcome, it is more satisfying than legal settlement.

How to resolve family disputes

Perhaps, the ideal is to create a family environment in which disputes don’t happen or members resolve their own problems. For instance, the Dalai Lama is credited with creating the idea of “a culture of dialogue.” He taught, “A culture of dialogue is one in which people habitually gather together to explore their lives, their differences, their dreams. Every facet of such a culture would contribute to people learning together, building healthy relationships with each other and the natural world, and co-creating better prospects for their shared future.”

Sadly, most family disputes start and end without such sentiments. However, a professional mediator is trained and experienced in structuring, facilitating, and monitoring the same process. Mediation helps people explore their lives and differences. It encourages them to build healthy relationships. And, they do it by co-creating better prospects.

The lesson learned is, before you let a family dispute reach a violent stage, a hostile divorce, or estrangement from your children, it makes sense to seek the advice of a qualified mediator committed to resolving the situation that created the tension and to structure a solution with the full participation of the parties. Good lawyers will suggest the mediation route even if it avoids divorce or other final but emotionally costly solutions.

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