How To De-Escalate And Decrease Family Conflict

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 13, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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All families experience conflict from time to time. The "I hate my sister" or "I hate my mother" thoughts can occur even when small conflicts arise. Disagreeing with others—even those you love—is generally a part of all types of close relationships. The way in which families handle conflict is what’s important. For those who wish to discover how to resolve family conflict, some of the tips below may help.

Frustrated with family conflict?

The toll that family fighting can take

There’s plenty of available research that addresses the effects that parents fighting can have on children. An article from the BBC relates that the children of parents whose conflicts are frequent, intense, and do not usually get resolved may experience negative effects. These could include sleep disturbance and an interruption of early brain development in infants, anxiety and behavioral issues in children, and depression and behavioral issues in adolescents.

Consider also the effects of fighting between siblings that escalates into bullying, which can include poorer mental and physical health for decades for the children who experience it according to one study. Fighting between a parent and a child can also be traumatic for the child, and research shows a correlation between childhood trauma and low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and substance use problems.

Family fighting does not always escalate to the level of trauma. Some families may simply fight or argue more than is comfortable and would prefer and benefit from a calmer, more loving way of relating to each other. While the past can’t be changed, it is possible to learn new strategies for conflict resolution that can help families move through disagreements and challenges with less arguing and upset in the future.

Strategies for better conflict resolution in families

You’re only in control of your own actions, so you can’t force your family to practice healthier conflict-resolution techniques. However, by modeling some yourself, you may be able to influence how others in your family handle conflict over time. Here are some tactics to try.

1. Learn how to emotionally control

Emotional control is simply the ability to control your emotional state. Emotions can be powerful, and remaining perfectly in control of them in every situation isn’t always easy. However, working toward building your abilities in this way can make a big difference in how you handle all types of conflicts and challenges in life and relationships.

Something as simple as deep breathing can help calm the mind, research shows. Starting a mindfulness practice of some kind may also help since research suggests that it can decrease levels of stress. Whatever tactic assists you in keeping your emotions in check when a family argument starts to escalate will likely be useful.


2. Let others speak, and then listen

Sometimes, arguments between people escalate when one or all parties interpret that they’re not being heard. Making a conscious effort to invite each family involved in a conflict to tell their side can help de-escalate emotions and move participants in the direction of a resolution. Remember that sincere, active listening can help people feel heard. According to an article in the International Journal of Listening, this practice may include nonverbal signs of engagement (head nods, eye contact), refraining from judgment, and asking open questions (those that begin with words like ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘how,’ ‘when,’ or ‘where’) to ensure clarity and understanding.

3. Explore different ways of resolving conflict

Not every human is wired to handle conflict in the same way. Being open to different methods and formats of conflict resolution can make the family feel more comfortable expressing their points of view and agreeing on solutions. For example, some people may need to take time alone to organize their thoughts or process the perspectives of others. Allowing them to put their thoughts down on paper instead of presenting them verbally may be beneficial. Whatever it may require for all individuals in your family, exploring different formats for resolving disputes can be helpful.

4. Try to keep your body language neutral

Researcher Albert Mehrabian broke down communication into its component parts. According to his studies, it’s 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and only 7% based on the actual words said. These numbers show just how important body language and tone can be during a conflict. Crossing arms and rolling eyes, for example, are two signifiers of frustration, disrespect, or disagreement that can derail conflict resolution efforts. Using a sarcastic or mocking tone or raising your voice can also undermine these efforts. Though it may be difficult when emotions start to increase, maintaining open body language and aiming to keep a calm, even tone of voice can help de-escalate a fight with a family so you can start working toward a resolution.

5. Avoid interrupting

According to research, even a two-second interruption is enough to make us lose the thread of what we are saying. An interruption can make us lose our focus, momentum, and even the potential to feel satisfied at having fully expressed ourselves. Avoiding the impulse to interrupt family when they’re explaining their side of a conflict can help ensure that they’re able to express themselves fully and feel heard and understood.

6. Speak with a therapist

Working with a trained therapist can offer a variety of benefits to someone who is facing the challenge of a family dynamic where fighting is common. They may be able to help you identify unhealthy patterns, set boundaries, and build your own communication skills. They can also provide a listening ear and an objective perspective to allow you to work through your feelings about a particular conflict so you can then express them more effectively to your family.

Frustrated with family conflict?

Online therapy can be a convenient option for seeking this kind of treatment. With a virtual therapy service like BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist from home. All you need is a working device and an internet connection. Since research suggests that online therapy can offer similar benefits to in-person sessions, this format may be selected by those who find it to be more convenient and comfortable. Remember: The right therapy format for you is typically the one with which you feel most comfortable.


Frequent family fighting can be traumatic at its worst and upsetting or irritating at its best. While you can’t change the behavior of your family, working toward improving your own communication and conflict-resolution skills may be able to help you influence better outcomes.

Seeking to explore family concerns in a supportive environment?
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