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Simple Conflict Resolution In Relationships

"Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret".

-Ambrose Bierce

One of the most difficult challenges most of us face in relationships is the ability to resolve conflicts. Often, when angry, we can communicate in a manner that is reactive and aggressive which tends to exacerbate the conflict rather than resolve it. The heat of our anger, or the righteous indignation we feel when we feel wronged, tends to leak out in our words and tone.

There are a few simple things to keep in mind when we are in the midst of a conflict with someone we care about that can shift the direction of our conflict towards resolution rather then towards deeper frustration:

  1. Notice The Conflict- the sooner we are able to recognize the energy of conflict the less likely we are to get deeper into the frustration. Often we can notice that we are feeling growing tension in our body during certain communications and this can be the clue we need to notice. Breath deeply to begin to calm your nervous system.

  2. Avoid Communicating Electronically- solving conflict is most efficient when people are speaking in person.

  3. Avoid Pointing The Finger- Begin to use "I statements". Saying "I feel" vs. "You did" can shift the conflict from one of defensiveness to one of collaboration. Example: "I feel hurt when you arrive late for our date. I feel as if our time together is not important to you". Versus "You are always late when we are supposed to get together. I must not be important to you".

  4. Use Respectful Words and Tone. Honesty is important, but how that honesty is communicated is often even more important. Almost anything can be said respectfully. Avoid any sarcasm or contempt.

  5. Own Your Part. Often, we each have a part in the conflict. Even if it's a miscommunication or misinterpretation. Relax your ego and be willing to own the role you may have had in the conflict. When one person owns their part, it allows the tension to go down and allows the other person to also consider their role.

  6. Be A Listener- be willing to sit back and allow the other person to express themselves fully. Often, we most want to share our pressing thoughts and feelings, which of course is needed.

  7. Stay In The Present- Avoid reaching back into history and sharing all the other times that this person did something to hurt or frustrate you. In close relationships, we often have baggage around previous grievances. The current challenge gets cloudy when other frustrations creep in making resolution difficult.

  8. Take A Break- If the energy becomes to heated, it's ok to say "let's take a break and cool down". A sign of both awareness and respect is to recognize very little can be resolved when the emotional stakes are too high. Set a time to return to the conversation whether in an hour, the next morning or the weekend.

  9. Agree to Disagree- not all conflicts can resolve to one side or the other. It's ok to communicate fully and then relax into the lack of agreement about the situation. It's in the intimacy and authenticity of communicating that allows for resolution. A powerful quote by Rumi's states: "Somewhere between right and wrong, there is a garden. I'll meet you there".

When in relationship, we must realize that we are different people with different experiences and perspectives. This can often lead to differing opinions and triggers. The mass majority of relationships have conflict, thus learning how to navigate these situations productively can be very powerful and actually lead to deeper connection and intimacy.


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