How to Mediate Family Arguments

Families fight. But long-lasting wars do not belong among family members. Here are some steps to resolve disputes in your family.


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    Calm down. Very little is accomplished when angry. Emotions can interfere with logic and anger prevents empathy. Even though it's hard to reason just calm down when you're angry, this is a must if you want to solve anything. Take a walk, take a shower, take a break. Just get some air between you and the anger.
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    Rejoin. Agree to meet. Find a time and place to work where you will not be likely to reengage in the battle. Perhaps a public setting, meeting with a psychiatrist, or conversation with a minister will keep you from blowing up.
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    Think. Don't just turn in circles, getting yourself worked up again. Instead, use the time before meeting to plan your approach, develop your points, consider all options, decide upon a possible settlement. List both sides and look for both positive and negative to each. Prepare.
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    Be positive. This is your opportunity to lead the process and show the other side how serious you are about settling the dispute. Go into the meeting head up, smiling, positive, leaning toward a good solution.
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    Follow the leader. If you use a professional mediator, he or she will have guidelines. If you handle the mediation on your own, look up professional mediation procedures and follow those. The more formalized the process, the better the chance of its being taken seriously. Important guidelines include: A) take turns talking (don't interrupt); B) repeat what was just said to show you're listening; C) list, list, list every suggestion; D) quit if anyone gets angry - take a break to breathe; E) write down your agreement
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    Document. Whatever your outcome, write it down and have both sides sign. This, again, formalizes the process, adds gravity, and helps both sides remember what they agreed to.
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    Review if necessary. If the agreement begins to fall apart, re-convene the mediation and confirm the agreement. If amendments are necessary, follow the original mediation process.


  • Don't use words like "you", "she" or "they", use people's names to show more respect.
  • Find a neutral place to talk.
  • Celebrate success! Reward yourselves for doing good.
  • If the argument is very personal or volatile, get professional help.
  • Get a mediator who is either neutral or respected by both sides.


  • Focus on only one topic at a time. If something else comes up, make a note and come back to it later.
  • Keep your voices down. No yelling.
  • Don't meet for too long. Long mediations turn into endurance contests. Stop when you get tired or frustrated. Agree when to pick up again.
  • No insults. No accusatory "you" statements.
  • Leave the past in the past. Focus on now and the future.
  • Avoid a mediator who may have reason to take either side. Your mother will not be a good mediator.
  • Both sides must be willing to at least try.

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Categories: Creating Life Balance