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Resolving Family Conflict

Danielle Bertini, LPC

Family conflicts can often hit a spot that other conflicts cannot. They can cause us the most pain, suffering, and distress. Whether its another yelling match with your teenage child, disagreement with your spouse, or longstanding drama with your mother, conflicts that hit close to home are often the most challenging to face because it’s so easy to be held hostage by your own emotions.

Dr. Aldo Civico proposes this question: How then, can we turn a difficult moment at home into an opportunity to build rapport with the people that are dearest to us? He shares a conflict resolution strategy called the Perspective Triangle Strategy. This is a strategy that helps you to shift from an unproductive state of mind to one that is more resourceful. This also helps to not escalate the conflict further, which happens when you let raw emotions take over.

Civico (2015) says that when you let yourself free from negative emotions, negotiators suggest that you metaphorically “go to the balcony” and look at the conflict from some detachment. Although this is easier said than done, the perspective triangle strategy allows you to detach yourself and get more clarity, which is important if you want to resolve conflict and avoid escalation. Here are the three steps for the Perspective Triangle Strategy:

Your Own Perspective: This requires you to achieve a higher degree of self-awareness by asking yourself what is really bothering you. What pain are you trying to avoid? What are you protecting yourself from? Are you trying to connect with the other, or to feel connected with yourself (especially if you feel down, sad, or depressed)? Inquire, think deeply into yourself, and clarify what the conflict is truly about. It’s likely that while the fight is about a specific issue, you are after something that lies deep down. What is that?

The Other’s Perspective: This is a very important step which requires you to have empathy, through which widens your understand of what is really going on. Within this step, put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Do your best to suspend your own judgment for a moment and see the situation you are confronting from the other’s perspective. What might influence the position taken by the other? What experiences shape their understanding? What is going on in the life of the other? What needs are they satisfying with the particular behavior? Is it a way to feel secure? When you combine the insights you gained from considering your own perspective as well as that of the other, you can have a better understanding of the issue at hand and the best ways to resolve it.

The Third Party’s Perspective: It can often be helpful to get a fresh perspective about the problem you are trying to resolve from someone on the outside. Within this step, put yourself in the position of a third party viewing the situation you are involved in. Civico (2015) offers the idea of imagining you are sitting in a movie theater, watching your conflict projected on a screen as if it were a movie. What is it all about? What does the observer tell you about your own behavior and judgment? What do they see? What advice do they give you?

With using these three different lenses, you are able to get the necessary emotional detachment, valuable insight, and deeper understanding of the conflict that you need. Conflict can be an opportunity for better communication, for dialogue about problems that matter, for self-growth, and for a more authentic relationship. Although conflict cannot be avoided, it can be resolved, transformed, and experienced as a way to become deeper and wiser individuals.


Civico, A. (2015, June 4). 3 Steps to Resolving Conflict Within Your Family. Retrieved from resolving-conflict-within-your-family.

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