Relationship conflict arises from differences, both large and small. It occurs whenever people disagree over their values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Sometimes these differences appear trivial, but when conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is often at the core of the problem. These needs can range from the desire to feel safe and secure or respected and valued, to the need for greater closeness and intimacy.
We respond to conflicts based on our subjective perceptions of the situation, not necessarily by an objective review of the facts. Our perceptions are influenced by our life experiences, culture, values, and beliefs.
Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren’t comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won’t be able to resolve conflict successfully. However conflict can also be an opportunity for growth. When you’re able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements.
Conflict triggers strong emotions and can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and discomfort. When handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable rifts, resentments, and break-ups. But when conflict is resolved in a healthy way, it increases your understanding of the other person, builds trust, and strengthens your relationship.The ability to successfully resolve conflict depends on your ability to:
- Manage stress quickly while remaining alert and calm. By staying calm, you can accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Control your emotions and behaviour. When you’re in control of your emotions, you can communicate your needs without threatening, intimidating, or punishing others.
- Pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of others.
- Be aware of and respect differences. By avoiding disrespectful words and actions, you can almost always resolve a problem faster.
If you don’t know how to stay cantered and in control of yourself, you will become overwhelmed in conflict situations and unable to respond in healthy ways.
It is important to avoid ;
- An angry or agitated stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional or unable to sit still.
- A withdrawn or depressed stress response. You shut down, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
- A tense and frozen, stress response. You “freeze” under pressure and can’t do anything.
Conflict creates stress
Stress limits your ability to:
- accurately read another person’s nonverbal communication
- hear what someone is really saying
- be aware of your own feelings
- be in touch with your deep-rooted needs
- communicate your needs clearly
Emotional awareness is the key to understanding yourself and others. If you don’t know how or why you feel a certain way, you won’t be able to communicate effectively or resolve disagreements. Emotional awareness helps you to:
- Understand what is really troubling other people
- Understand yourself, including what is really troubling you
- Stay motivated until the conflict is resolved
- Communicate clearly and effectively
Know your own emotions during conflict and stress
Do you experience :
- Feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change from moment to moment?
- Physical sensations that you experience in places like your stomach or chest?
- Distinct feelings and emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy, which are evident in different facial expressions?
- Intense feelings that are strong enough to capture both your own attention and that of others?
Do you pay attention to your emotional responses and their impact on rational decision making?
Communication and conflict resolution
Your ability to accurately read another person depends on your own emotional awareness. The more aware you are of your own emotions, the easier it will be for you to pick up on the wordless clues that reveal what others are feeling.
A calm tone of voice, a reassuring touch, or an interested facial expression can go a long way toward relaxing a tense exchange.
Tips for managing and resolving conflict
- Listen for what is felt as well as said. When you really listen, you can connect more deeply to your own feelings and needs and to the feelings and needs of others. Listening also strengthens, informs, and makes it easier for others to hear you when it’s your turn to speak.
- Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or “being right.” Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument. Be respectful of the other person and their viewpoint.
- Focus on the present. If you’re holding on to grudges based on past conflicts, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here-and-now to solve the problem.
- Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worth your time and energy. Maybe you don’t want to surrender a parking space if you’ve been circling for 15 minutes, but if there are dozens of empty spots, arguing over a single space isn’t worth it.
- Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive others. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can serve only to deplete and drain your life.
- Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.
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