Most of us try to avoid conflict as much as we can. We avoid it because we are concerned that we won’t be able to resolve the issue peacefully with minimal drama. It’s uncomfortable and we are naturally wired to avoid pain.
Let’s take a look at some of the thoughts and beliefs we have when we think about conflict:
- Maybe I am making a bigger deal out of it than it really is.
- I’m not really sure how I feel about this, I just know it bothers me.
- Every time I speak up, I get other people mad or I feel rejected.
- What if I raise this issue, and the relationship ends?
All these worries surrounding conflict are understandable. The problem is, when you choose to avoid conflict with others, you don’t just stop feeling your emotions about it. The conflict actually escalates and becomes bigger because those feelings fester inside you. Your mind ends up ruminating on things, seeking to end the conflict you feel to no avail. Resentment builds and despite trying to appear that everything is okay, a cauldron of anger is brewing beneath the surface. Not only are hiding your true feelings, you’re neglecting your own needs by allowing things to go unaddressed.
Here’s the thing about conflict. Conflict is an opportunity for people to strengthen relationships and take their relationship to a deeper level. Instead of seeing it as a detriment, we can look at it as a positive thing because it allows people to speak honestly and move forward in a fair, reasonable fashion. We don’t have to bite our tongue and just put up with things that threaten our peace of mind.
The challenge is how we handle conflict. Below are some ways we can approach handling conflict that arises.
1.) Think about whether or not there is an issue to address. If so, what is it? What are your feelings about it? What would you like to see happen going forward? Be clear about how you are feeling with yourself before having a conversation about it with others.
2.) Pick a time to talk about it. Be sure to pick a time that is convenient to you and the other person. And speak about it privately.
3.) Be specific about what you are feeling and stick to the present. Don’t bring up things from the past. Assume that the person meant no harm when addressing how you feel. Use “I” statements instead of “You” statements. And when describing behaviors and feelings avoid using words like “never” and “always”.
4.) Let the other person respond and actively listen to what they have to say. Don’t think about how you will respond. Listen to their perspective. Maybe they are feeling things you had no idea about. When they are done, summarize what they said to you to make sure you are understanding them and are on the same page about what’s being communicated.
5.) Focus on creating a solution or compromise you can both can agree to. Instead of rehashing the idea, be solutions oriented. It’s helpful to have an idea of what you would like to see happen and what compromises you may be willing to make before having the conversation. Be willing make compromises and communicate appreciation for the other person doing so as well.
6.) Check in on how the solution is working as needed. Sometimes when you come up with a solution, circumstances change and it’s okay to revisit the issue if the solution is no longer working.
If the idea of asserting your feelings is overwhelming, you can start with small things and work your way up to the bigger issues.
Your turn…Are you avoiding conflict in your life? What are some small issues you can begin addressing now?