Only rarely can the difficulties that flow from a sibling rivalry be completely avoided. By their nature, the rivalries are facts of life in a great many family businesses, and the issue therefore is whether they are allowed to dictate behavior and become a destructive force that threatens the survival of the business. In other words, can family members learn to manage the conflicts rather than be managed by them?
On the positive side, business families do have a head start when it comes to conflict resolution and conflict management. Possession of these skills is generally one of the hallmarks of strong, coping families, and lasting family businesses are usually owned by strong families. In general, ‘optimal families’, as they are often dubbed, demonstrate those skills that are crucial in dealing with the tensions between individual choice and group needs – between the need for individual freedom and the need for belonging and togetherness.
Firstly, it is essential for family members struggling with the debilitating consequences of both father-son and sibling rivalry to appreciate and understand the psychological basis of their dilemma, without this, there is an inevitable tendency to believe that the aggression, the destructive and irrational behavior, and the guilt involved are a result of purely personal or unique family defects. Once it is realized that what is being fought out is a series of primeval rivalries that affect not just individuals but most of the human race, this cannot fail to defuse some of the intensity of the emotions generated by the problems, thus making it easier both to analyse what is going on and to begin thinking more clearly about ways of coping. `