Conflict. Nobody wants to feel that awkwardness when we are faced with noticing a difference we have with someone.
It is uncomfortable and many of us want to avoid it. How do we best deal with this when we are faced with the inevitability of being in conflict with others? How can we get through resolving conflict with another?
The truth is, conflict is inevitable. What isn’t inevitable is how we deal with it after the fact. In fact successfully resolving conflict in a relationship can be a wonderful way of deepening intimacy.
So if conflict is inevitable what do we do? To start with we have to develop better repair skills. What do I mean by repair? Well, usually repair is about your car or your washing machine. I’m talking about repairing the pain that happened during the conflict.
When we find ourselves with differences, we can say things we don’t mean or call each other out in ways we don’t intend. This can lead to lots of hurt feelings. It’s so easy to say something and have your loved one misunderstand or misconstrue the words. We all do this. Luckily there are ways to fix the situation, resolving conflict before it spirals.
So here are 5 elements that help in resolving conflict in a healthy way.
1. Lead with Humility: Let go of your self-righteousness and put your relationship before your need to be right. This is, maybe, the hardest thing on the list to do. It is so easy to quickly get in she said, he said, argument. “But I didn’t say that.” “No, you aren’t being fair.” I realize how painful this can feel. Humility is about stepping out of this desire to change the other’s perspective but instead to accept it as it is. “I hear that what I said hurt you and I want to say I’m sorry.” That’s it. The attempt to prove to them they are wrong is rarely going to be affective. You can still set boundaries and tell your partner that a certain behavior is not okay. But begin with a willingness to see their reality as real. Why? Because to them, it is real.
2. Be Open
Come to the repair effort with an open presence. This means you are there and you are willing to be impacted by the other person’s viewpoint. If you show up with your defenses up chances are you will need further repair later on.
Actively hear what the other person is saying and notice how it impacts you. “I hear that you were hurt by what I said and I feel bad about that.” When I say listen, I mean you aren’t preparing what you are about to say when they are speaking.
4. Practice Non-Violence
Saying things like, “I feel like you were being a jerk,” is not really an expression of feeling. These are violent statements meant to hurt the other person. Instead express what happened, “you raised your voice at me.” Express your feelings, “that made me defensive and angry.” Request a different behavior, “I want to listen to you but I want you to say it in a tone of voice that helps me hear it.”
5. Show Appreciation
After you have worked through the pain and found some semblance of repair, tell your partner that you appreciate them. Let your partner know how much it means to them that they are willing to show up and work through the struggles of the relationship. Showing up is how we show our love and commitment, which, creates trust.
In my own experience these five elements are really important for resolving conflict and creating healthy repair. I’m sure there are more but these are the ones I try and bring to the repair process. I also want to add that these are difficult. It involves swallowing your pride. It means that you are going to have to sit in the pain of feeling wronged and step forward and put the relationship first.
Moving out of the right/wrong mindset is hard for many of us in this culture. The belief is that if we can just get our partner to finally see how wrong she/he is then we’ll be able to have a fun and satisfying relationship. These five elements are not about changing your partner but about showing up in the best way for your partner. So give it a try and realize that you aren’t going to be good at it for awhile.