As long as we are being authentic in our close relationships with others, we will all experience conflict at one point or another. This is simply a reflection of how varied we all are in our beliefs, desires, lifestyles, and perspectives on life. With the right skills and tools however, conflict can be resolved and relationships can be relieved of anger and tension. Here are some steps to consider if you’re currently facing a conflict:
Though conflict is a part of life, many people would rather not experience it. They may deny that they are feeling distraught about a relationship issue or they simply decide to not say anything about it. Unfortunately, this isn’t ultimately healthy for the relationship and can lead to more resentment later. If you can’t let it go, it’s important that you are honest with yourself about it.
The second step is to do some introspecting. What are you feeling and why are you feeling it? Sometimes the reasons behind our anger, hurt, or sadness are mysteries to us. This is when it can help to seek the guidance of a counselor or journal about what you’re experiencing. Clarity will arise with time.
To truly listen is a rare and invaluable skill. Often we appear to be listening but in reality we are building our case against someone mentally or are unreceptive to what they’re telling us. Simply making the other person feel truly heard creates a healing space for the conflict to dissolve and also encourages them to be more open to your thoughts on the matter.
• Be Clear
Expressing what your needs and wants are is crucial to resolving conflict. However, there is a difference between being assertive and being aggressive. Avoid pointing the finger at the other person and instead focus on your own experience. You can do this by using “I feel…” and “I think…” rather than “You always…” or “You never.” Research shows that being critical of the other person’s character or shutting down in an argument can be predictive of a relationship’s demise.
Sometimes a natural solution arises from the two parties simply hearing each other for the first time. Other times a decision must be made. You have several options – you can agree to disagree, find a compromise on both sides to “meet in the middle,” or allow the person who is most adamant about it to get their way this time.
• Be Safe
Sometimes some temporary distance is required in conflicts, and sometimes the relationship just needs to end all together. If a relationship brings much more conflict and stress into your life than joy and encouragement, you may decide to respectfully let it go. In other cases where there is emotional, spiritual, or physical abuse, it is even more important that you reflect on what is best for your life, not the relationship.