Conflicts in life are unpleasant. It destroys relationships and zaps the energy of individuals and their families. Many families try to avoid conflict at all costs. Wrong. Conflicts must be managed and resolved, confronted if you may, but never avoided. The more you avoid conflict, the riskier it gets to a point where solutions are no longer in plain sight. By ignoring it, relationships spiral out of control. Take jealousy among siblings as an example. Jealousy can turn to resentment, which then escalates into hatred until it goes full throttle to siblings reaching for each other's throat, expressing their loathing for each other and being unable to control their emotions. Unimaginable as it seems, I have been witness to siblings threatening and plotting to hurt each other physically. 

Let me share a story that happened many years ago. One afternoon, I received a frantic call from an overseas business owner requesting me to intervene in a strange situation involving two siblings caught in a crossfire for the flimsiest of reasons: the houses their parents gifted them. It became the source of intense sibling rivalry that escalated into a fireball of conflict engulfing everything in its path. For years, the business suffered because the siblings refused to talk and collaborate. The parents tried to mediate to no avail. One sibling headed finance and the other one was assigned operations. Their refusal to cooperate with one another caught non-family executives in a serious bind. Some ended up being lured into taking sides, but others resigned out of exasperation. Tensions between the siblings reached breaking point after one sibling (operations) apparently made a decision to proceed with the sale of an asset without informing the other sibling. The sibling (finance) threatened to resign and the parents were at a loss on how to resolve the toxic relationship.  

So what was it about the houses that made the siblings hate one another? 

Both houses given to the children were almost similar, located in a gated and exclusive village, but there was only one difference. The older sibling's house was on a beachfront property, while the other was not. That was it: a beachfront view that caused the other sibling to scornfully denounce the unfair treatment.

When we started our intervention, the siblings refused to join our meetings if one was present. I even had to talk to them separately. Even their spouses were no longer speaking. One sibling even stopped joining the regular weekend lunch hosted by the parents. The family was desperate and helpless.   

When I finally got to talk to them individually, the siblings let loose a barrage of emotional outbursts, notably Roy, the younger sibling heading finance. He came prepared with a list of issues he considered unjust, "Just because Ronald has a bigger household, just because he has more kids, he gets paid more? Where is performance in the equation? Just because he is our firstborn, he gets a beachfront home and a higher salary? What about me? Don't I deserve to be treated fairly? Will this injustice continue forever? My parents never listened to me. Every time I raise these issues, the family — especially my mom — brushes it aside. She keeps on nagging me to always respect my brother because he is older. That is precisely why I tendered my resignation! Respect is earned and never given."

So I asked him what should now be the way in order to remedy and finally address this rivalry. He could not offer solutions except to reiterate that he was emotionally affected and was no longer interested in working in the business. He further highlighted how distraught he was when his parents completely ignored his pleas to straighten the mess, "Dad never cared at all. He refused to listen and act. I hope he is aware that if he goes, the business will collapse like a deck of cards. I refuse to work with my brother! It will be tragic. All the years of hard work will be for naught! I hope he finally listens to your advice."