written by Jude, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and Relationship Counsellor @ Relationships Australia Qld

Conflict is invariably seen as negative and therefore has the power to become destructive. But conflict can be positive if handled thoughtfully. For this to happen each person needs to accept responsibility for resolution. We only have three choices in life – put up with things the way they are; make changes that give a greater level of satisfaction; or walk away.  Sometimes this can be a difficult choice especially when the conflict is within an intimate relationship.

In the main there are four things that have the potential to light the fuse.

  1. In most arguments each person insists that they are right.  This of course means that someone has to be wrong.  I wonder who becomes the umpire.
  2. Not listening and not engaging displays arrogance, disinterest and disrespect.  Resolving conflict requires a commitment to move forward and therefore it requires attention and intention and an acknowledgement that it takes at least two people to continue to battle.
  3. When we judge another person or assume we know what they want; what they feel or what they are thinking, there is an essence of superiority.  “I know more about it than you”,  “You know you don’t like going to the beach”,  waves a red flag.
  4. Unresolved conflict will escalate when aggression moves to anger and rage.  Similarly passive behavior, “Whatever you want”, will also ensure the problem remains a problem.  Assertiveness lets the other person know how you feel, what you would like if it is said with respect.

So, there are a few things that can become indelible and remain in our unconscious competence when faced with a conflictual situation.

  • BE CURIOUS NOT FURIOUS.  Rage and fury escalate conflict - being curious leads to solving the problem. “How do you think we could approach this?”, Are you feeling OK to talk?”, “I can see you are upset, what do you need right now?”. Curiosity increases understanding, helps to engage the other person, gathers information, focuses on feelings and demonstrates hope.
  • DELETE FROM THE VOCABULARY words like always, never, just and do not start sentences with the judgement word you, “You always carry on like this.”.
  • FOCUS ON THE BEHAVIOUR which raised the blood pressure, not on the person. This means being aware of body language. It is amazing how a raised eyebrow or hands on hips can be seen as provocation. Keeping the conversation about behaviour reduces the emotion which reduces the tension.
  • BE HONEST AND HUMBLE.  This goes a long way. Owning up to a mistake, not justifying or defending or blaming can sometimes stop an argument in its tracks.
  • ACKNOWLEDGE THE EFFECT your behaviour has on the recipient and validate the feeling it creates. If you accidentally step on someone’s foot their pain is the same as if you did it on purpose.

Very few conflicts come without warning. Many years ago an Oprah Winfrey episode described how easily conflict can escalate.  This is how it went: We can often get a whisper of something unsettling. If unheeded this whisper becomes a message. If not addressed this message becomes a problem which has the potential to become a crisis or even a disaster.

How true the old cliché is - we cannot change someone else, and we cannot change the past, but we can always change our attitude.

-- Jude, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner and Relationship Counsellor @ Relationships Australia Qld



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