Ending family feuds.

By David Joel Miller.

Don’t let family disagreements damage your mental health.

Family fighting.

Family Feuds.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Families can be a great support, or they can be a great problem.  Don’t let family feuds and disagreements be something that damages your mental health.  Regardless of what someone else may have done, there are ways that you can stop participating in the problems. While you can’t change other people most of the time, you can change the way you handled the situation. Here are some ways to reduce the impact family feuds may have on you.

Accept them for who they are.

Lots of family conflicts are about trying to get someone to be something there not.  There are going to be lots of people in your life who will never be exactly the way you wish they would be.  One way to preserve your mental health around other people is to simply accept them the way they are.

You may not like where they live or who they are in a relationship with. If you don’t like their partner or their house, remember that it’s not you that has to live in that situation. Sometimes family members have some very unhealthy friends. We may wish they didn’t have those friends but constantly arguing about it drives them away and back to those friends. Sometimes we just have to be patient until people in our lives are ready to change. Sometimes, as we get older, we find that it’s us that is changing.

They don’t owe it to you to do what you want them to.

Having expectations for family members and friends sets you up for disappointment.  What may seem clear and reasonable to you may be something they don’t want to do.  Keep in mind that just because you want it does not mean that they owe it to you.

Lots of families have been torn apart because parents had expectations of what their children should become or do with their lives. You may think they would make a great lawyer but if they have no interest in the law pushing them there will make both of you unhappy. Some people have great talent but what’s important to them is their hobbies and their leisure. You need to allow others to have the space to live the life they choose.

Remember it hurts more because they are family.

When a family member hurts you, it is likely to be a lot more painful than if a stranger did the same thing.  We may not expect much from someone outside our family.  Because of the higher expectations, we have for family when they let us down is even more painful.

Be very careful that you don’t fall into the trap the because they made one mistake or did one thing you didn’t agree with you cut them off forever. Sometimes improving your self-esteem begins by cutting others some slack.

Don’t expect them to change because you insist on it.

A lot of family disagreements are because one person wants another person to change in a particular way.  Just because you want it, doesn’t mean they owe it to you. Sometimes you must set boundaries. If your family member does drugs, you may need to keep them out of your house or avoid lending the money.

What you shouldn’t do is hold that period when they used drugs, against them for the light rest of their lives. Don’t hold onto the resentment because someone had to try a different path than the one you would’ve picked for them.

Accept them for who they are.

If you want them to accept you the way you are, then you should offer them that same acceptance. People shouldn’t have to say, do, or be any particular way for you to accept them. Learn the difference between accepting people and insisting that they think can be the way you want them to.

They are typical of other difficult people you will have to deal with.

The world is full of difficult people.  Sometimes we have difficult family members.  Keep in mind that you will have to deal with difficult people in your life.  Some of those difficult people will be relatives.

Sometimes the thing that makes others so difficult to deal with is our insistence on arguing with them about things. Give yourself and them the gift of allowing others to sometimes be wrong without you needing to point it out to them.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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Being verbally blunt can be a good or a bad thing.

By David Joel Miller

Saying what you think can get you liked or it can get you hated.

Telling the Truth

Telling the Truth
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are you one of those people who find they can’t help saying what they think? This can be a blessing or a curse. If you have this trait and it has gotten you in trouble or damaged relationships read on for some tips on how to make this characteristic work to your advantage.

Some people who are blunt, speak their mind, are perceived as rude and irritating. Others get the reputation of being frank and honest. Telling the truth, being extremely straightforward, comes with risks. Holding back on information makes people question your honesty.

It is hard to trust people who won’t give you a straight answer.

Being too cautious about what you say can lead to never really giving anyone an answer to their questions. Those folks who do not respond to others statements may think they are avoiding conflict. What they accomplish is to leave everyone wondering what they really think and can they be trusted.

People who change their opinion when they move from person to person do not get trusted. Get clear on what you think and want, then find ways to convey your positions in a consistent manner if you want to be trusted.

Being straightforward about your feelings and beliefs can get you the reputation for honesty if – and only if – you do it correctly.

It is not what you say but how you say it.

Think of this like cleaning the dirt off a fine old wood table. You can use a clean, soft, polishing cloth that contains some cleaner specifically made for that special wood furniture. Or you can use some steel wool. Both will get the dirt off. One leaves it healthy and restored and the other will leave scars in the finish.

If you dislike something, explaining why in calm gentle language, makes your position easier to listen to. If you express yourself in statements laced with profanity or attacks on others you turn your listeners away. Cruel words hurt regardless of the truth of your statements.

Learning to slow down what you are saying so that it comes out the way you mean it is an important skill. You need to learn to prevent collateral damage from the way others may interpret what you said. Much of the poor communication people talk about is the direct result of ambiguous statements that get interpreted in ways the speaker never intended.

There is a right way and a wrong way to convey bad news.

Saying things in a blunt way when it is done in a hurtful manner can result in lasting damage to the relationship. When expressing something that may be hard to hear, concentrate on the other person and how they feel. How would you want someone to tell you that they disagreed with you?

Work on putting yourself in the other person’s place, not on discharging your negative emotions. One technique for expressing disagreements without destroying relationships is called the Sandwich technique. Take a look at the past post describing how this can be an effective way of delivering bad news without harming the other person.

Become comfortable with others disagreeing with you.

Think very carefully about what you believe and why. Become open to other points of view. The people who create the most wreckage with their bluntness are often those who are insecure in their own beliefs.

If you start feeling threatened when others have a different view then there is a possibility that you are shaky in what you believe. If others not agreeing with you is threatening, then work on yourself, not on forcing others to agree with you by yelling louder and attacking their thoughts.

Learn to disagree without attacking the other person.

When you disagree with someone learn to think of this as someone who has a different opinion not someone who is “ignorant” or “stupid.”  Calling people names impedes communication. Someone who makes a mistake is not any of the global characteristics people may call them.

One error does not make them “stupid.” Very intelligent people make mistakes. In fact the more you learn and think about the more likely you are to make a mistake. Calling people names or personally attacking them does not make you right or improve your situation.

You and others have the right to be wrong sometimes.

Sometimes you will believe something and later find out that you were wrong. You have the right to be wrong. We all do. Allow that in disagreements others have the right to make mistakes and be wrong from time to time. It is not helpful to believe that someone who is incorrect about something is a “liar.” Allow others to be wrong when they are and let things that are not all that important go.

There is little value in spotting someone else’s errors and pointing them all out. Rather than this being helpful, this can permanently damage a relationship.

People, who grew up in a non-affirming environment, where they were never told they were OK, grow up to be low in “self-esteem.” You do not need to destroy someone else’s self-esteem by pointing out all their flaws. Finding others errors will not do much to elevate your self-esteem. Let it go.

For more on the topic of bluntness and honesty and when it may damage relationships you might also want to look at a past post: Just being honest

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

So how is your bluntness working for you?

Ways to fight fair

By David Joel Miller.

The way you argue makes or breaks relationships.

Couple Quarreling

Couple Quarreling
“Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Sooner or later people in close relationships end up disagreeing and that leads to fights. By fights, I am talking about arguments not episodes of physical violence. What happens during and after those disagreements determines the fate of the relationship.

Pile up a lot of arguments and your relationships suffer. Whether you win or lose those disagreements the residual ill feelings can do permanent damage to that connection.

One disagreement trap people fall into is to think that when the fight occurs they need to win the argument at any cost. Sometimes you win this one little battle but the rest of you relationship becomes an entrenched war.

Using unfair fighting tactics can result in two losers and no winners. Make sure that the tactic you use in your discussions with your partner are fair ones that do not leave the relationship in ruins afterward.

Here are some ways to disagree constructively that may help you argue without destroying your relationship.

1. Accept that it is OK to disagree.

The majority of things couples fight about have no solution. You like Coke and they like Pepsi. They insist on supporting and voting for the wrong party. Chances are you won’t change them.

Some things like politics, religion, preferred beverages, and music have no solution. You disagree, you argue, you fight, you hurt each other and the relationship.

If you two like to talk about these subject, all is well. But if you continue to insist that your partner needs to change their opinion to suit you, then you are headed for trouble.

Learn to accept that not everyone in life has to agree with you, especially your partner or close friends and enjoy the things you do have in common.

If there are absolute must-haves in this opinion area you should check this out before you get into a hard to get out of relationship.

Live and let live if you want a good relationship.

2. Only argue about things for which there is a solution.

Do not argue about the other’s family. They can’t change that and your insisting that they came from a defective background is hurtful. Skip the fight about your and their music choices. Work instead on way to manage these preferences.

Can one of you list to music wearing headphones? Can you set limits on certain types of entertainment?  Can you agree that when you are both in the living room together this is a music free zone?

3. Solve the problem not destroy the other person.

When fighting stay on topic. Leave the hurtful comment bombs unused. Way too many people think that the way to win the argument is to pull out the zingers and to say something to make that other person really hurt.

Those favorite destructive weapons get used over and over. Hurt the other person enough and there will be no life left in that relationship.

Fair fighting – the kind that helps relationships grow not leaves them demolished, should never include personal attacks and deliberate infliction of pain.

4. Look for a win-win solution.

We used to call this compromise and people got the impression that what we meant was you win one time so to be fair you need to lose next time. Trading off on winning and losing is not a healthy way to manage conflict.

Say you want to go out this Friday and they want to stay home. Both of you are insisting that the other do what you do. One solution to this might be that you each do your preferred activity and then you plan some time another day to do something together.

Be careful of hidden agendas in attempting to select Win-win solutions. Is the person who want them to stay home trying to cut their partner off from family or friends they do not like? Is the person who always wants to go out still trying to act single and do a lot of drugs and alcohol?

Focus the disagreement not on the differences, but on the feelings. Why does one of you feel anxious or threatened when the other insists on a certain activity.

5. Listen to understand not to refute.

One major thing we work on in marriage counseling is not how to express yourself, most people can yell their point across. The missing skill is often listening.

Frequently the two people are not even arguing about the same topic. When one person is talking the other is thinking of what they will say in response. Often they are way off base because what they think the other person is saying is not what they meant.

When the other person is talking, try to get, not just the words they are saying, but the feelings behind those statements. Are they saying that something is scaring them or frustrating them? How can you help them feel safe or reduce their frustration?

6. Respect the other person’s feelings.

Do not dismiss feelings. If something scares your partner do not tell them they should not feel scared just because you do not get that feeling in a given situation.

Each person is a unique individual. Some people are born more at risk for anxiety or depression. Other people have had sad or frightening experiences.

Work to understand what they are feeling and how sights, sounds or actions may be triggers for them. Reduce the negative aspects of the situation and you may find a place where you can agree.

Make sure you also acknowledge your feelings and own what you feel. The other person may not be feeling what you feel.

7. Admit when you are wrong.

This does not automatically mean you lost the argument. Being able and willing to admit when you are wrong creates space for the other person to admit their mistakes also.

If you are wrong do not keep arguing about why you came to that conclusion. End the fight and move on. It is OK or should be, for either of you to sometimes be wrong. Life is about having new experiences and you will never know how each action will turn out.

8. Make repair efforts after the fight.

Arguments, disagreements and even loud fights can occur in most any relationship. Try to minimize the conflict by believing that the other person really does want to get along.

If you are really convinced that they want to harm you, think about how to change or end this relationship.

People who survive fights and go on to have good stronger relationship make frequent repair efforts. They apologize after a fight. They truly try to change and avoid unnecessary conflict. When there has been damage done they can apologize and try to make things better in the future.

Happy couples have fewer fights, have more positive interactions and make frequent efforts to repair any damage to that relationship as soon as possible.

How might learning to fight fair help make your relationship a better one?

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books