De-escalating Family Conflict

lorisa stein de escalating family conflictBy learning how to decrease the heightened negative emotion family members may feel and express during a conflict, they can redevelop a trusting positive connection. The familial dysfunction may arise from a simple misunderstanding or a perceived slight just the other day or several years ago. It may have festered and is harming their relationship and others in the family.

Here are some thoughts on how to expose and unravel the distrust:

  1. Identify the elephant in the room: Not having all the facts all the time may lead to a perception of ill will among family members. Talking about that elephant, the feelings today, and how they came to exist acknowledges that a problem exists. To blame each other simply keeps the hostility alive and stalls reconciliation.
  1. Assert the benefit of the doubt: Move away from applying negative labels which exacerbate tensions. Extend the benefit of the doubt. I look forward to unburdening the pain and moving forward.
  1. Inclusive expression of fears, anger: This isn’t one side that takes all. Park your privilege and your ego. Create a safe environment and welcome everyone involved to share their experience in a non-threatening manner. No one says it’s going to be easy.
  1. Own the action: If you made a mistake, overstepped, or offended: own it. Take responsibility. And explain how you are working at learning from this experience.
  1. Seeing another’s point of view: If this heightened emotional distrust has embittered family relationships for a long time, it’s going to be tough to head on the best path forward. Take one step at a time. Believe in the value of clearing the emotional fog and be open to listening. Enlist the help of a sage senior family adviser to keep discussions calm and focussed.
  1. Apology accepted: Clarifying what went wrong is enlightening and empowering. An uncompromising apology offered to each person aggrieved recognizes the impact on everyone affected. Expressing regret, shame, and sorrow for the harm caused – whether actual or perceived – is courageous and will be welcomed.
  2. Repeat: We’re humans. And we make mistakes. Learning how to de-escalate emotions allows us to regain our logical functioning brain and return to healthy relationships.

Lorisa Stein is an experienced senior family law lawyer based in downtown Toronto, Ontario. She has utilized the collaborative method to help countless families resolve their conflicts. To schedule a confidential consultation with Lorisa, please fill out a meeting request, call (416) 596-8081 or email her at