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Getting Comfortable with Conflict


conflictFor many, conflict can be a scary thing.  For some it means raised voices or even physical violence. For others it is a mystery, something done behind closed doors.  In either case, avoidance and fear often result.

For the lucky few, they have learned conflict is a necessary part of all relationships.  In fact, if safety and respect are present, conflict can actually bring people closer together.  Instead of intimidation and “my way or the highway”, there is the potential for problem solving or sometimes “agreeing to disagree.” In either case, deeper connections and mutually beneficial solutions can be achieved.

No matter what was modeled for you, the good news is we never stop learning.  I have learned many secrets that I want to share with you in hopes that you will become more comfortable and competent with the art of conflict resolution in your own personal and professional lives.  I continue to see the benefits that can be reaped when we open ourselves up to others’ points of view even if the feedback we are getting can be challenging to hear at times.

Necessary Ingredients:

  • Emotional and physical safety; set important boundaries.
  • Respect
  • Self-awareness; the ability to recognize one’s emotions and triggers and identify personal needs.
  • Flexibility and openness to hearing another point of view.

Common Pitfalls:

  • Power struggles “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” 
  • Criticism & defensiveness
  • Intimidation & anger turned into aggression/abuse
  • Silence or shutting down
  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol

10 Tips for Dealing with Conflict:

  1. Pick time, when people are calm and free from distractions to talk about important or heated issues.
  2. Recognize and then externalize unhealthy or destructive patterns. (Refer to Sue Johnson’s book “Hold Me Tight and Harriet Lerner’s “The Dance of Anger”)
  3. Be open to hearing what the other person has to say without becoming defensive or critical.  I find this phrase helpful; it is not you, but the situation that is upsetting me.
  4. Empathy or trying to put ourselves in another’s shoes helps you find common ground and acts as a powerful buffer against harmful words and actions.
  5. Talk directly with the source unless it is NOT safe to do so. (In situations of verbal abuse, try “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” by Patricia Evans).
  6. Use “I messages” and be specific about your complaints and clear about your needs.  Use the “feedback sandwich” making sure that both pieces of “the bread” are affirming statements.
  7. Take a time out if necessary (at least 20 minutes) but agree to come back to the issue.  I’ll talk about this more in a later post.
  8. If you have children, model respectful problem solving and explain to children that you are working it out.
  9. Encourage children to make decisions and increase their empathy by offering restricted choices, then “what would you do if…” questions as they get older.
  10. Use counselling to help heal from old wounds and be aware that experiences from the past may be interfering in our relationships even years or decades later.

sunsetWant concrete tips for how to move from avoiding conflict to making it work for you? Come to our walk-in counselling on Thursdays from 1-7 pm to get the help you need, when you need it!

Keep the conversation going; join us with your comments on Facebook.

 NicoleNicole, June 29/12 

Published inNon-Violent Choices

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