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How To Reduce Conflicts Among Family

Each family is unique due to variation of personal characteristic and cultural style.  Family is the first training centre for any human being before stepping out to the world. Home and family is the first place they learn how to adapt to their surroundings.  Family is a basic unit in a society and a healthy nation are made from strong society which comes from strong family.  Each members of the family have a part in the family.

In these modern era, where most things become easy with technology and social interaction have been taken over by social media.   Relationship become vulnerable, family can easily become distance.  Family don’t talk anymore, they text each other and this becoming a trend. If you look at people around, at the restaurant, at the park, shopping complex and even in any gathering, most will be on the hand phone rather than talking to each other.  People don’t talk anymore, they texting and this scenario can be pretty scary.

Many people especially family member having communication break-down.  Divorce rate are getting higher each day because of conflict among family. Conflicts that are not resolved peacefully can lead to arguments and resentment.  Communication in a positive way can help reduce conflict so that family members can reach a peaceful resolution.

Communication is the healthy key to any healthy relationships especially family.  Effective communication and listening skills are important skills that need to be learnt.  Poor communication skills or lack of listening skills may create miscommunication which leads to conflict and tension among family members.


Communication in a family are very important, a good communication is a key to healthy relationships among family.  Objective of this study is to learn the importance of communication in a family system.  How communication affected family relationship, good and open communication is essential to establish a harmonious relation among family members based on certain important characteristics.  Poor communication among family will lead to conflicts and family problems such as separation and divorce.

This assignment is requires a discussion on;

The importance of communication in a family system.

The factors contributing to the occurrence of a conflict among family system? And

The effective strategies on how to avoid or reduce conflicts among family members.



Communication is sharing of ideas, thoughts and feelings among people, communication doesn’t have to include words or verbal.  Non-verbal are also considered as part of communication, when we ask a child to agree on something and the child nod, means the child agree with you without saying yes or no.  Communication involves the ability to pay attention to what others are thinking and feeling.  In other words, an important part of communication is not just talking, but listening to what others have to say.

There are four main points in the communication concept of a family system.  They are as follows:

There are no such things as an ideal family. Every family attempts to form a distinctive identity as a result of both happy and sad experienced in their lives.  Imperfection makes a family system perfect together.

Communication in a family system is process that happens when a family member discusses and shares meaning with other members of the same family. Through this interaction, we shape ad determine the identities and relationships of the members within the family and society.

A healthy family will attempt to adapt and shape changes in order to maintain closeness within the family as well as control and handle any conflicts.

The family is the best example of the context of communication involving multiple generations that is from the smallest members of family to the adults and the elderly.



Although communicating with family members may seem complex at times, family communication styles can be broken down into two major constructs: clearness of the message and directness of the communication. There are four basic communication styles: clear and direct, clear and indirect, masked and direct and masked and indirect. Clarity in communication refers to how easily a message is understood, while directness refers to whether the message is spoken directly to the person for whom it was intended.

2.2.1    Clear and Direct Communication

Clear and direct communication is considered the healthier form of communication in families. Clear and direct communication occurs when a message is stated plainly and directly to the person for whom the message is intended. An example of clear and direct communication is a statement such as “Honey, I’m so proud of you for completing your homework early.”

2.2.2    Clear and Indirect Communication

In clear and indirect communication, a message is clearly communicated, but the person for whom the message is intended is not clear. This type of communication is probably meant for someone but don’t want it to show it directly.  For example, a mother saying “all of you make this house is in a mess” sends a clear message, but does not address directly to the person for who it intended.  This type of communication can be a problem, it create tension rather than a solution.

2.2.3    Masked and Direct Communication

Masked and direct communication occurs when a family member is directly identified, but the message communicated is not. Masked communication may be viewed as passive-aggressive, because it vaguely discusses concerns without directly addressing them. For an example, you are upset with your daughter for not able to clean her room, stating “I cannot imagine how someone can sleep in a room like this”.  It is clear that you are upset with your daughter for not cleaning her room but without giving her instruction on what to do.

2.2.4    Masked and Indirect Communication

The least effective method of communication is masked and indirect communication. This communication style does not identify the intended recipient for the message, nor does it clearly state the message that you are trying to convey. A statement such as “People don’t care about keeping a clean house anymore,” is both vague and does not directly identify any one person in the family.


Family system theory stresses that the whole of the family is more important relative to the individual contributions each family member provides.  The system theory concept of wholeness emphasizes that the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.”  Thus, families can be understood not through individual members’ experiences (which can vary widely from one another-think “beloved sister” and “black sheep” here) but, rather, through the unique dynamics and overall climate achieved in a family; that is, families should be measured at the system level (e.g. size, rigidity, climate) rather than the individual family level (e.g., perceptions of satisfaction, emotional experiences)

As in roles theory, where one parent is the resource provider and the other is the nurturer-caregiver.  Both functions must be achieved for the family to function, so both parents rely on one another, and the children rely on both of the parents.  The concept of homeostasis (balance) stresses the nature of families as goal-attaining systems.  The family have goal to attain a well raised children, social and emotional well-being and family’s satisfaction.

For example if there is certain issues in the family, such as a child create problem in school.  The parents may need to set their goal and attempting to regain balance within the family system.

First, families use communication, which functions to connect the self-aware, self-directed, independent identities within the families.  Second, families must use sociopolitical negotiation to achieve joint decisions by members with individual needs and independent wills.  Thus, families require a far more elaborate executive mechanism than is found in other types of systems.  Third, attributions regarding families must be made at the social system level.  In other words, attributions about as system are different (e.g. size, rigidity, development) from those of individuals (e.g., marital satisfaction).  Fourth, families use social distance regulation as they approach and avoid members within the family and across family boundaries.

2.4       RULES THEORY

Rules of communication shape how we communicate with various family members, inform us regarding the best way to verbally talk to, or nonverbal communicate with, other member of our family.  Rules help us know that we are obligated to tell our mothers what time we will be home and with whom we are going out.  Rules also let us know that it is preferred that we communicate in pleasant ways and swearing at our mothers is strictly prohibited.


No family can escape from having conflicts, as it is normal to disagree with each other from time to time.  We face conflict on everyday events but minor issues, such as having different opinion can easily be resolved.  Conflicts which involved strong emotions or the power imbalances that can be present in relationships are difficult to resolve.  Some stages a family goes trough such as learning to live as a new couple, birth of a baby, just to name a few can also leads to conflicts.  Certain change in the family situation that requires major decisions, roles or power are also contributes to conflict.  Here are some examples;

3.1       Learning to live as a New Couple

A newly married couple usually start their journey together by staying at their parent’s house before they have a house of their own.  According to Amsa Naidu cited in The (30/08/2016), there have been more couples filing for divorce these years and dealing with this people every week rather than one or two cases at one time when she started before.

Amsa, who has been practicing family law for 17 years, says some get a divorce after just three months of marriage and says common reasons among her clients, is interference from in-law.

3.2       Marriage Problems

Based on the initial findings of the fifth Malaysian Population and Family Survey conducted in 2014 by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN, Lembaga Penduduk dan Pembangunan Keluarga Negara), divorce cases in the country are mostly caused by “incompatibility” at 35.3 per cent, which was cited as couples growing apart, lack of intimacy, and careers getting in the way of the relationship, followed by adultery (20.2 per cent), irresponsible husband (14.1 per cent), involvement from in-laws (7.3 per cent), financial problems (5 per cent), and among other reasons (18.1 per cent). (, 2016)

couples fight

The dated 30 August 2015, cited that The Islamic Development Department (Jakim, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia) defined irreconcilable differences as being disrespectful towards a spouse, communication problems, selfishness and laziness has been the reason of divorce in this country.  Malaysian Syariah Lawyer Association President Musa Awang says cases of irreconcilable differences occur when both parties can no longer accept each other or do not have feeling towards one another and there are also some couples who live in the same house but sleep in different rooms.  Musa also shares that some of his clients divorce for the simplest of reasons, for instance a case where a woman wanting to leave the marriage because her husband spent too much time playing video games, while another man complained that his wife did not cook for him and was slow in making drinks.  And fight over best telecaster pickguard from MF’s

These reasons can be seen as simple and should not end to break up.  Negotiations, mutual understandings and how we communicate towards each other may help to reach a peaceful resolution.  Communication has not always easy.  Each family member plays different roles in the family system.  Each of these roles carries with it different responsibilities and expectations.

3.3       Electronic Gadget and Social Media

Electronic gadget and social media such as Facebook, twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, just to name a few has been also blame for conflict and divorce rates in Malaysia.  As stated in The (14 January 2016), Dean of the Education Faculty, University Malaysia Associate Professor Dr Mariani Mohd Nor said WhatsApp have become a platform for young couples to express their anger during domestic conflicts and  cheat on their partners by befriending others.


It has been a trend that family create WhatsApp group for family, in my opinion it can be good for small family but for big family, texting can easily create conflicts.  Expressing or sharing information via messages in WhatsApp can give different perception and intonation from what is actually intended by the sender.

3.4       Dealing with Children

Having children and being a parent has never been easy.  From the birth of a baby, having more children, child going to school, child going through adolescent, choosing a college, and giving support on career are just some example of stages that can be potential conflict.  During these stages, there will be conflict and problems that family need to address and resolve.  Talking to children age 5 are different when talking to a teenager.

Giving instruction or requesting help from a child, can too create conflict.  For example, a mother asking her child to help her with the dishes, rather than helping, her child gives excuses and this create conflict between a child and mother.

Another example, if a family has a special child that need attention, this can create tension amongs family members especially husband and wife.  Dealing with special need can be stressful and teamwork from the family.


3.5       Financial Circumstances

Financial problems are one of the leading causes of divorce. A couple may feel overwhelmed by the amount of money they owe, which affects how much they can afford to do or buy for the family. Financial stress can also occur when a husband and wife disagree about how, where or when money is spent. Other family conflicts arise as a result of unemployment. When someone is out of work for a long period of time, she might feel anxious, depressed or ashamed, and such negative emotions can fuel arguments with her spouse.


We can’t escape ourselves from having conflict within the family unit but no matter how big or small the conflict is, there will always ways to solve it.  Nobody is perfect but how we communicate towards each other will help ease or resolve conflict.


Communication is the important tools among families therefore everyone should learn and improve their communication skills.   Here are some suggestions on how to improve communication.


4.1       Be an Active Listener

Here are the active listening skills;

Be attentive and pay attention to the person speaking with you. Listen to what the person saying without interrupting.

Respect the speaker and attention to both verbal and nonverbal clues. Body language, facial expressions, and posture can all provide a detailed picture of what’s going on.

Avoid letting your personal preferences affect how you listen. Try to keep your personal beliefs from clouding the speaker’s statements.

If you don’t understand what’s being said, clarify by asking questions and try not to become distracted or lose track of what’s being said.

Give appropriate nonverbal clues. When you’re actively listening to someone, your body language will show whether you’re paying attention or not. Maintain eye contact while talking, this is to show that you are interested in listening. Nodding your head is another indication that you are focusing and listening.

Lastly is to repeat back what you heard. This lets the speaker know that you’re really listening. Also, when you say what you understood, it gives them a chance to clarify any miscommunication.

4.2       Communicate Frequently

Make time to communicate with each other.  After a long work for parent and school for children, the only place family can sit and talk are while having dinner.  Learn to limit or keep gadget away when at home.  It is better to keep gadget, such as handphone when you are at home with family, this will allow you to have time to communicate with family members instead of texting or checking email or social media.

Learn to say words of encouragement and show appreciation in daily communication within family. This will make family feel appreciated and love.  Have a reading time with family member and share about the book to each other, this not only create quality time but sharing informative and education.

4.3.      Communicate Openly and Honestly


It is good to use affective communications; it is the way individual family members share their emotions with one another, for example, expressing how sad they are in a situation.  Most Asian family may have a problem with affective communication compare to western family but nowadays healthy families all over the world able to express themselves openly.

Communicate openly and honestly among family members will make it easier to understand how each other’s feel on certain issues.

Expressing feeling openly, help ease stress and not hold grudges.  Share feelings of frustration with your spouse and receive suggestions in return will make relationship closer.  Communication using text, or expressing anger in the social media should be avoided.


4.4.      Using the Right Language

Everybody wants to be heard, every unit in a family has a needs and voice that requires attention.  A father wants respect from his family; a mother wants her children to obey her rules and children need attention and love.  Tension happened when we feel our children not listening to us, we want them to listen and act to what we asked them to do.  But when they don’t give the respond we want or give excuses, we feel stress.

There is five love languages of children, there are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and act of service.  Once the parent understand their child’s primary love language, it will be easier for both child and parent to interact.  For example, if a child’s primary language is physical touch is to look at their face, hold his or her hand and tell them what to do.  A hug will make them feel better and for younger children, reading stories together with your child on your lap make them feel happy.

There is another ways of communication that may help relationship amongst family.  That is using NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programing).  To be an effective communicator you need to learn & be always aware of the 3 human primary modes that people use to process thoughts during communication.


There are Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic.   Just like being right-handed primary, each of us uses one of the 3 modes as our primary form to convey messages during communication.  Understanding which one the person you are speaking with is using is a step forward to being a better communicator.  The moment you understand the type of person you are talking to, may it your parents, spouse or children, you can build rapport easily and communicate better.



4.5.      Agreeing To Negotiate

If we are too angry, we tend to shut our ear and heart to any explanation.  We don’t want to listen to explanation but only want to win in any argument.  It helps if everyone decides as a family to try listening to each other and negotiating instead.

Try to separate the problem from the person and before getting into discussion, try to cool down first.  Remember that the other party isn’t obliged to always agree with you on everything but learn to calm.

For example, if you sharing a home with your in-law, you need negotiate on certain things, for both families can stay in harmony.  Try to find points of common ground and at certain time we need to learn to agree to disagree.


This assignment has explained the important of communication in family, what are the factors contributing conflict among family member and some suggestions on how to avoid conflict.  In conclusion to this, conflicts such as learning to live as a family, marriage problem, financial problem, the use of electronic gadget and social media has been the reasons of separation and divorce. Sadly, divorce rate in Malaysia are getting higher each year.

There is no problem without solutions; good communication is the best solution to deal with conflicts.   It is important for family to learn on effective communication.  In order to solve conflicts, learn to be an active listener.  Communicate frequently, openly and honestly is the key to healthy relationships among family members.   Agree to negotiate in a way will help family to stay in peace and harmony with each other.

Dealing with children, from the start the child was born, adolescence, adulthood, choosing school and career are the conflict or issues a family go through by stages.  Understanding the right language to talk to different age children make it easier.  Learning to understand the type of person we communicate can also help family to communicate easy and better.

To conclude, communication is an important tool in family relationship.  Open and honest communication is part of effective communication.  In order to have a good relationship, it is good for family to understand and learn to communicate effectively.


References :

Communication Is the Key to Healthy Family Relationships. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2016, from

Chapman, G., Phd, & Campbell, R., MD. (2014). The Five Languages of Children (4th ed.). Bhopal, India: Manjul Publishing House Pvt.Ltd.

Electronic gadgets, social media blamed for high divorce rates in Malaysia. (2016, January 14). The Star Online. Retrieved November 5, 2016, from

Erin, Kelly L., Phyllis Moen, and Eric Tranby. “Changing Workplaces to Reduce Work-Family Conflict: Schedule Control in a White-Collar Organization.” Changing Workplaces to Reduce Work-Family Conflict: Schedule Control in a White-Collar Organization (n.d.): n. pag. NCBI. 1 Apr. 2012. Web. 4 Nov. 2016.

Rowe, Bill. “Active Listening Techniques Anyone Can Use.” Mindset Daily. N.p., 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Nov. 2016.

Keng, Y. M. (2015, August 30). ‘I do’ turning too soon to ‘I don’t’. The Star Online. Retrieved November 5, 2016, from

Lakshiny. “Divorce Statistics Show That Work Is Getting In The Way Of Marriage – Here’s How You Can Save Yours Before It’s Too Late You Can Save Yours Before It’s Too Late.” 2 Feb. 2016.

Semerda, E. W. (2013, August 19). Effective communication: Using Visual, Auditory & Kinesthetic words. Retrieved November 13, 2016, from

Vijaindren, A. (2016, January 31). Seeking work, life balance Read More : Http:// New Strait Times Online. Retrieved November 1, 2016, from

Young, Marisa, Scott Schieman, and Melissa A. Milkie. “Spouse’s Work-to-family Conflict, Family Stressors, and Mental Health among Dual-earner Mothers and Fathers.” Society and Mental Health Vol. 4(1).1-20 (2014): n. pag. Web. 5 Nov. 2016.

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