Having a Conflict with a Family Member? Try the Sandwich Technique!

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Let's face it - conflict is inevitable. We all cannot get what we want the way we want it all of the time, and thus our needs and wants and personalities will collide. SO - let me suggest that the goal is to handle conflict well so that:

  • we maintain mutual respect;

  • we look for win-win (rather than win-lose or lose-lose) solutions;

  • we restore domestic tranquility - life is too short to stay in the fight!


Here is a valuable technique - which I first learned from Mary Pipher's book Reviving Ophelia (which is still a must-read for parents of daughters) - that can achieve these goals. Thesandwich technique has praise as the top piece of bread, hope as the bottom piece of bread, and your criticism as the "fixings" of the sandwich.


Here's a scenario you might relate to: you come home from a long day at work to find the kitchen full of empty jars and boxes, a sink filled with dishes smeared with tomato sauce, and a half-empty gallon of milk on the counter. This is the result of a pasta-cooking event led by your son and his football buddies. You want to get dinner started, and now the kitchen is a mess. How to proceed?

PRAISE: Hey John, I really appreciate how you take care of your buddies and share our home with them. You are a good friend to them, and I enjoy having your friends at our house.

CRITICISM: I do feel, however, that cleaning up after yourselves before I get home is an important part of our shared family agreement. Today's mess in the kitchen is just too much for me to deal with right now, and it needs to be cleaned up before I make dinner.

HOPE: I hope we can continue to respect our common spaces in the house and take care of one another. I know you can be a kind and conscientious kid, and I believe this won't happen again.


Let's look a bit closer:

  • Praise that is specific, helpful, and true opens up the listener's ears and heart and helps our message to get through to others.

  • Criticism that looks at the "directly observable data"  - like the dirty kitchen - and avoids labeling - like "lazy" and "slob" - is most likely to get good results.

  • Hope in the message getting across suggests faith in the other person and a positive attitude when looking ahead.  

So - why not give it a try?

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by John published on October 8, 2018 7:18 PM.

Some tips for an authentic and peaceful Thanksgiving dinner with your children and extended family was the previous entry in this blog.

Hope - The Promise of the Season for Our Families is the next entry in this blog.

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