Today we are going to discuss practical ways to deal with conflict. This is a skill we learn as we go. It is not something that is taught in school, unfortunately, but we learn in the school of life. I think they should make it part of the curriculum. We'd have a lot less divorces, I bet. Studies show that couples who are able to resolve conflict are the ones who are able to maintain their marriages. Relationship expert, John Gottman, talks about this in his book "The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work".
1. Pay Attention to your Feelings
It's taken me years to get in touch with my feelings since my mother always told me I was "too sensitive". I learned to push them down and ignore them which is both unhealthy and unproductive. Our emotions and feelings are trying to send us a message to help and guide us. If we ignore what we are feeling, we don't receive the message, miss the information and worse, end up making poor decisions we later regret. At age 20, I ignored the warning signs my body and spirit were sending me and plunged myself into an emotionally unhealthy and abusive marriage that lasted 15 ugly years. This is what can happen when we ignore our feelings and our gut.
2. Address issues
When we address issues in our relationships, we get them out on the table in plain sight. In other words, we bring light to the darkness. It is an opportunity for both parties to voice their hurts and this leads to understanding. Often, we do not understand why the other person is acting in a certain way. Discussion leads to understanding which is a key component of preserving healthy relationships.
3. Express Your Feelings
Often we state the behavior we want to change, but we forget to explain how the person's behavior makes us feel. Experts instruct us to use "I" statements when we are bringing up issues. "You" statements are blaming and unproductive. The objective is not to put the other person on the defensive. The goal is to communicate and work as a team to resolve the problem. Sadly, again, this is something many people are not aware of.
If time goes on and you're not seeing any changes or progress,
This means either:
1) the other person is not willing to change or
2) the other person is unable to change. They are not at a level of maturity or growth that enables them to understand what you are trying to say.
5. Give It Some Space
When we are at an impasse, it is time to take a break from the relationship whatever way you can. If you don't live with the person, don't call them or visit them. I don't care who it is. Parents and children are not exempt from this. Do not feel guilty. You are taking steps to preserve the relationship and your sanity since the other person is not budging. One caveat is we don't know how the other person is going to respond. He or she may completely leave the relationship, but this is out of your control. This means they didn't value it enough in the first place, so you have lost nothing.
6. Grieve the Loss
So this is not an easy pill to swallow. Close relationships are precious. When they don't work out, it is painful and grieving is a necessary part of the process. Allow yourself to feel your grief. It is sad. It is painful. But remember, it will pass. You will move past this. At some point, you will realize the relationship was not healthy in the first place. Be gentle with yourself during this time and don't be quick to rush into another relationship just because you miss the other person. Give yourself time to heal and to reflect on what could have been done differently on your end.
7. Let it Go
There's a song by Sting that says "If you love somebody, set them free". Enjoy the video. This is probably the most loving thing we can do is to stop trying to get another person to change. The only person we can change is ourselves. We may be at a level to be able to address conflict maturely, but the other person may not.
Now I am not saying I have this all down perfectly. I struggle with some things in this area as well but one of the reasons I write these posts is to help me learn these lessons myself. The experts say you retain more information if you write stuff down.
So I hope this post has encouraged you and given you some practical ways to address conflict in your relationships. Please click the +1 icon and share with your friends. If you'd like a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path" enter your email in the box provided.
Until next time, keep the faith and keep looking up!