Conflicts and disagreements are unavoidable. As long as relationships exist, conflicts and disagreements will always be part of them. As soon as you put two human beings together, you have two cultures, two backgrounds, two frame of reference, two mindset, two families of origin, two ways of doing things etc
Depending of the family of origin and even the culture people grow in, some have learned to look at conflicts with fear and avoid them. Others have learned to freeze and finally others engage in conflicts without any thoughts on how to handle them in a way that will produce positive outcomes and protects their relationships.
The consequences are that very little or no positive outcomes come from the way they engage or refuse to engage others when they disagree.
You can find yourself in a conflict you created or in one that is beyond your control. Though you can always reap some benefit. There is always an opportunity hidden behind the conflict. For one it can reveal to you the limits, the weaknesses in your character and give you the opportunity to refine your character. For example empathy and understanding can develop in the character of individuals when they embrace a conflict and genuinely listen to the other one without trying to defend himself/herself.
Your character can be sharpened. Arguments can result in the discovery of an unexpected course of action that creates a breakthrough in the relationship, deepest levels of communication and intimacy in marriage or relationships.
It is critical to define some rules to engage in conflict if you do not want to damage temporarily or even permanently your relationships.
– Do not attack the other one.
– Do not defend yourself.
– Even when attacked keep a calm and respectful tone.
– Focus on being fair and achieving the best possible outcome for both parties.
– Do not focus on being right.
– Focus on protecting your relationships.
– Do not violate the vulnerable confidence of others and use them to hurt him/her.
– Do not speak when angry. Postpone the conversation.
– Do not use harsh words. It will spiral the conflict.
– Never lengthen an argument.
– Do not follow your impulse. Take the time to stop and think.
– Learn to forgive quickly and to reconcile.
Before engaging in a conflict you need to evaluate the possible consequences of the conflict and ask yourself if you are willing to loose this relationship, the trust of this person, or the intimacy you have with this person.
Seek counsel when you do not know how to engage fairly in a conflict or if you have not been able to resolve conflicts constructively. A qualified professional is not involved emotionally, will be more objective than any person involved in the conflict, and can teach you conflict resolution skills.
Adapted from a book by Steven K. Scott.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT