The essence of a happy life is found in the quality of our relationships!
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Conflict Is NOT a Four Letter Word
The experience of conflict is an unavoidable part of all relationships. Many times people are so afraid of it that they seek to avoid it at all costs. Frequently they perceive conflict as angry confrontations, aggressive communication and/or hurtful actions - rarely, they understand it as the opportunity it really is. Handled with wisdom and care, conflict can become the foundation of honest communication, true understanding, emotional connection and a deepening of love in a couple’s relationship. The following guidelines help turn CONFLICT into OPPORTUNITY:
(click on the red headings for a more in-depth exploration on the topic)
Choose your timing - When conflict strikes, don’t deal with the issue that’s causing it in the heat of the moment. Only saints are objective at that time. Waiting until your temper has cooled greatly increases your chances of resolution.
Express your feelings in words, not in actions – Never allow your anger to turn into abuse. Any kind of physical force is classified as abuse and is totally unacceptable. Making your feelings obvious through actions such as withdrawing, giving you partner the ‘silent treatment’ or ‘the cold shoulder’ are not conducive to achieving your objective.
Remain calm – Screaming and yelling only hurts your voice box and your partner’s feelings.
Be specific – Clearly state what’s bothering you and stick with the issue at hand. Being vague or dredging up everything that has annoyed you about your partner for the past 5 years only confuses the current issue, triggers your partner’s defense mechanisms and makes resolution highly unlikely.
Communicate - Give each other turns to say what needs to be said. When it is your partner’s turn, listen carefully and seek to understand what they are saying from their point of view.Don’t automatically assume that you know what your partner means - If you feel attacked by what your partner is saying, ask yourself: ‘What is it about this that’s triggering me?’
Recognise the trigger – What is triggering you may have little to do with the conflict issue at hand. It could be that your partner has inadvertently opened an old wound; that they have unknowingly tapped into feelings of insecurity, guilt or vulnerabilities you’ve not yet shared with them. If so, this is a good time to help them understand. You do this by telling them.
Double-check – If you are unclear about your partner’s message or you believe that they are blaming, shaming or attempting to manipulate you, calmly ask whether this is indeed their intention. In the majority of cases these beliefs are based on misunderstandings or misperceptions.
Take your partner’s word for it – Whatever has caused your partner to feel anger, sadness or pain is WHAT IT IS, regardless of whether this makes sense to you, you understand or agree with it. It’s THEIR feeling and therefore it is valid for them.
Acknowledge your partner’s feelings – Making this acknowledgment does not prove YOU wrong or confirm your agreement. It simply tells your partner that you have ‘heard’, understood and accept that their feelings are valid for THEM.
Clearly and calmly state your own feelings – This allows your partner to see beyond the conflict issue and, in the process, get to know you better on an emotional level. This knowledge is vital for your future relationship success.
Don’t attack, threaten, belittle or ridicule - Using any of these tactics will only cause your partner to raise their defenses, to stop ‘hearing’ you and increase their desire to retaliate in kind.
Never call each other names - Even if you are dying to let something nasty slip from your lips, you will only regret it later. Name calling severely damages self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem and does nothing towards resolving the conflict.
Do not use deadly ammunition – Attacking your partner in their areas of sensitivity and/or using knowledge shared with you in good faith causes deep and lasting wounds that can spell death to your relationship.
Remember your partner’s rights– Your partner has a RIGHT to different views, beliefs, thoughts and feelings. Whether you share these beliefs or not does not make them either right or wrong, it simply means that your partner is a different person from you - not better, not worse – just different.
Don’t attempt to change your partner – Recognise that the only person in this world you are able to change is YOU. Personal change creates a healthy foundation for change in others. Attempts at forcing your point of view, manipulating or controlling only causes anger, resentment and mistrust.
Appreciate your partner’s differences– Their differences are most likely what attracted you to them in the first place. Don’t punish them for being unique, instead learn to value their individuality. This empowers your partner and they will LOVE you for it!
Seek a win/win resolution – Engaging in this process cools down heated emotions, gives you a common goal, helps both of get what you want and enables you to emotionally connect more closely.
Compromise – When win/win is impossible to achieve, meeting halfway is a useful compromise. Compromising is based on the principle of ‘give and take’. Relationship success is closely linked to your ability to work this principle.
Don’t be afraid of saying ‘sorry’! - Apologising doesn’t indicate personal weakness, having ‘lost’, or (necessarily) being wrong. An apology simply tells your partner that you care for them and functions as a key to unlocking greater emotional connection.
Accept your partner’s apology – Never respond with: ‘I told you so’! or anything else that could be perceived as belittling, patronizing, ridiculing or suggesting that ‘you have won’.
Forgive each other – Forgiveness is the only way forward. Whether you’ve been hurt by the conflict or feel disadvantaged by a necessary compromise, without forgiveness your relationship slate will not be cleared. Any remnant left on relationship slates have a nasty habit of popping up during future conflicts and impacting further conflict resolution attempts.
Celebrate - Each time you’ve successfully resolved a conflict, reward yourselves by celebrating in whatever form you choose. Go out for dinner, enjoy a movie together, make love!