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“That’s not what I said.”
“Yes, it is, I heard you.”
“You always try to pin the blame on me. If you were here instead of out golfing, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Oh, and how about you – out shopping again….”
And round and round and round it goes, ending with two angry people who continue to find ways to attack, defend and destroy each other.
Many of the problems we face are interpersonal conflicts of some kind. They are usually laced with anger and blame and persistence that I am right, and you are wrong.
How do we get into these conflicts in the first place? And how do we get out of them?
Everybody wants their needs met. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to be liked and appreciated and respected.
When we find ourselves in constant ongoing conflict, we believe that if only the other person would see my point of view, we wouldn’t have to have such discussions. If you cared, wouldn’t you understand my needs?
The only problem with that is the other person is saying the same thing. And since neither person at this point is listening to the other, the conflict simply intensifies.
Conflicts are problems that will not be resolved until we are able to see the opinions of others that are different than ours.
We make assumptions that everyone sees the world in the same way. We don’t. But as we face our disagreements and work to resolve them, we will grow as individuals. We begin to see more of the world than just our own view. We learn to take responsibility for our responses when in disputes. And we learn to respect differences.
Here are 5 ways people deal with conflict:
1. Denial or withdrawal.
The benefits to this are that we gain time, defuse the tension or rethink the importance of it. The dilemma is the conflict often gets worse because of avoidance until there is an emotional explosion.
2. Suppress or smooth over.
While this might keep the peace for a short time and avoid confrontation, the conflict will arise again in a different way.
3. Power or dominance.
When we inject power into the conflict there is no room for negotiation or compromise. It becomes a win-lose position. Power is used through threats, rewards, money or intimidation of status or position.
When decisions need to be made quickly, such as in life-threatening situations, power can be an important means to an immediate solution. The problem with power and dominance is that it breeds resentment and defensiveness and people stop trying to cooperate.
With this approach both people give and take so each person gets something. Nobody actually loses. A word of caution. Don’t accept the first solution you agree upon without exploring other potential ones.
This is brainstorming to create as many solutions as possible. It combines the abilities and resources of everyone involved to work for common solutions and includes everyone’s input, thoughts and expertise.
Before we work on disagreements and discords
Here are some questions that are often hidden within our conflicts that need to be addressed before we can be successful in working through them.
- What do I really want?
- What do I need from the other person?
- What does the other person need from me?
- What will be different – what will remain the same?
- What is the most important priority in this conflict?
- And am I willing to work towards a win-win?
When you have gone through these questions, you will be prepared to work on the disagreements you find yourself involved in. These will help identify your patterns of denial or withdrawal, power or dominance or just trying to keep peace without resolution.
Conflicts may be divisive, but they can be great teachers
We enter relationships because we need people. We want to be loved and accepted for who we are in spite of our limitations and faults. We want to be heard and understood. It is where we discover who we are.
We want what only a relationship can bring us: inclusion, respect and being heard. But we aren’t always prepared or willing to work on making it happen.
Relationships are never perfect. But it is where we learn we are not the end all – the greatest thing on God’s green earth, and we don’t always get what we want. It is where we learn about ourselves and learn to appreciate our differences.
Compromise and negotiation and sacrifice of personal wants is part of the package. It is here we learn our need for one another and understand the concepts of love and grace. And it is where we learn to sacrifice, give and receive.
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