conflicts in the family

Many of us value our families. They are our first support system growing up, and a solace when external pressures of life become overwhelming. But there are those times when we rub each other the wrong way. If you grew up in an African household, it’s likely that disagreements were not resolved. Family members just expressed their displeasure and that was it. Children didn’t have much say, as adults’ words were final. However, relationships can be strained over the years if conflicts in the family aren’t worked through amicably. What is the way forward then?

Talk With, Not At

It’s very easy for us to get carried away when we’re upset. Emotions run high and we are insistent on making our point. As a result we end up talking at each other and the discussion goes nowhere. Allow the other party to give their side of the story without interrupting them. There’s a quote that goes “Most people don’t listen to understand, they listen to reply.” Take time to see the issue from their perspective. Being receptive makes the other person feel valued thus eases tensions.

Keep It Focused

Have you ever been berated by someone for a mistake you made, then they bring up past issues? Sucks, doesn’t it? What results is either a shouting match or a monologue depending on your personality in handling confrontation. It is best to focus on the current problem and work it out rather than dragging previous misdeeds, which makes one feel attacked.

Agree To Disagree

Even after having a focused discussion in a calm environment, you may not agree on every point. This calls for understanding. If the other party holds a contrary opinion, respect that. Don’t attack or try to guilt-trip them into accepting what you think is right. After all, your relationship is more important than being right all the time.


Acknowledging one’s mistakes is key to resolving conflicts in the family. State clearly that you are aware you wronged the other party and are sorry about it. Ask them what you can do to make it up to them. What if you feel your actions were right, but the other side is offended? Well, admit that you caused them pain but it wasn’t intended. When an apology is offered, accept it. Your anger may still be simmering but appreciate that they have recognised their wrong. Let them know verbally that the apology has been received.


At times the issues may be huge or spanning many years. Resolution might not be achieved in a session or two. If the parties are grandstanding this makes it worse. In such cases an unbiased mediator is required. In many African families involving someone from outside is considered airing dirty linen in public. But for the sake of mending the relationship, a safe space where all can share their grievances without judgement is vital.


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