Family Drug Support Australia
Support Line: 1300 368 186
(available 24 hours 7 days a week)

Coping Tips

Dealing With Conflict

One option is to choose not to be in conflict.
Ideas for using your influence to encourage negotiating include:
Knowing about conflict – reflect on previous conflict situations you have had with the family member who uses substances. To help, ask yourself:
  •  What were the triggers to conflict starting? Does it even have to start?
  •  Are there any fixed patterns to how conflict goes?
  •  What are the roles people adopt?
  •  What are the payoffs people get for the roles they play?
  •  What are the prices people pay for the role?
  •  What is my responsibility, because this is the bit I can change? (This means taking a good look at yourself.)
Being assertive
  • Using our personal power assertively, rather than being aggressive, passive or passive-aggressive.
    Assertiveness leads to 'win-win' outcomes
  • Setting boundaries
  • It may be necessary to set a boundary, such as around how you talk about the issues that provoke conflict or around the issue of disagreement. (See Boundary Setting article on this website)
Developing a dialogue
In conflict there are usually two or more monologues – people are talking at each other and not listening. Aim for dialogue, which can be done by:
  •  Choosing your moment – e.g. not when someone is under the influence of drink/drugs
  • Slowing down the conversation
  •  Listening – really important – refer to Stepping Stones
  • Being open and honest
  • Respecting the other person. You do not have to like or respect some aspects of a person's behaviour. Respecting someone is recognising that they are more than some of their behaviour and they are worthy of respect as another human being. We are all different and we are all equal
  •  Accepting and understanding the other person's point of view, even when we don't agree. Two people can experience the same thing differently
  •  Using 'I' statements to own what we say – again refer to Stepping Stones
  •  Recognising your part of the responsibility for what has happened
  •  Recognising that others are responsible for the choices they make and their behaviour
  •  Acknowledging how we feel and how the other person feels
  •  Expressing feelings appropriately
  •  Recognising the need for all to exercise both rights and responsibilities
  •  Collaborating rather than confronting
  •  Commenting on what someone does rather than what they say, such as "I note you say again you won't use drugs in the house, but in the past you always have"
  •  Staying in this calm role. You will be inviting others to respond this way
  •  Starting easy and finishing strong, ratcheting up the toughness of your responses only as necessary
  •  Collaborating, being flexible and willing to compromise to reach an agreement, but ...
  •  Holding out for what is most important and compromising on lesser things – demand what you must, accept what you can
  •  Aiming for everyone to feel they have got something. The idea of 'win-win' as opposed to 'win-lose' or 'lose-lose'
  •  Helping people to save face, rather than humiliating them
  •  Agreeing the terms of the resolution, such as when it will start, when you will talk about it again, the consequences of any boundary being broken etc.
  •  Making a clear agreement at end of negotiation
Supporting ourselves
  •  Contacting organisations that can help, such as Family Drug Support, mediation services, counselling, refuges for domestic violence etc
  •  Accepting the support of people you know, either to talk about the difficulties of the conflicts you have, or to have a diversion away from them
  •  Letting ourselves have a break from conflict/having a place of sanctuary to go – holidays, time out, respite etc.
Though conflicts are frequently seen as a crisis, they may also be seen as an opportunity for positive change.