Category Archives: Conflict

Some Helpful Tips on Resolving Conflict

It seems there are those that are worried in their relationship when they face conflict.  Is conflict bad?  I guess it depends on how each of you face conflict in your relationship and how it is dealt with.

One of the things I have learned is that there are five different conflict styles (Pace, 1983).  Each conflict style has its pro’s and con’s and we can find ourselves using each one in different scenarios.  However, more often then not, we flow in one more than any other.  These conflict styles are as follows, with a brief description of each:

  1. Avoider – this is when the problem is ignored for any reason.  One of the words often found with this group is “Nothing.”  The person will say this in order to steer clear of any confrontation due to some internal and external triggers.
  2. Accommodator – this strategy is used to placate the other person involved as to ensure the relationship stays in tact.  The people usually use words like “Yes, dear” in order to appease the other person.
  3. Compromiser – is characterized by someone trying to make a win-win scenario out of any conflict.  The word often overheard with these people is “Compromise.”
  4. Competitor – this group knows there are two types of people and they want to be indentified as a winner, not a loser.  The word often overheard with this group is “Why” and this is because they want to know the other person’s reasoning so they can tear it apart in order to win the fight.
  5. Collaborator – wants both parties to walk away satisfy with the result of the conflict.  The word often heard from this group is “Research.”  They want to research and discover all the options before coming to a conclusion that way both feel heard and understood.  Together, they come to a conclusion about the conflict.

Now, as we read through this list I want to point out one thing.  No one is born a Collaborator; this is something that comes with practice.  We all want (and I hope desire) to be a Collaborator; however, we usually will find ourselves in one of the other categories.

As we come up against conflict in our relationships, I feel its important to remember that conflict is a good thing.  It teaches us where we need to grow in order to love and support each other better.  Here are some tips on how to deal with conflict better in your relationship.

  1. Do not use words like “never” and “always” – this is not true, no matter how much you might want it to be to prove a point.
  2. Use statements like “When you do [fill in the blank]…I feel [fill in the blank]…”  This takes away the defensive mechanism in the other and allows them to really hear what and/or how you are feeling.
  3. Respond to the other person using empathic reflective responses – showing them you listened.  This is done by saying something like, “What I hear you saying is when I do [what they mentioned] it makes you feel [what they mentioned]. Is this right?”
  4. After each of you listens to the other person, try to come to a mutual resolution.  This is where each will have to give and take, so just know that going into it.

References:

Pace, R. W. (1983). Organizational communication. Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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Topics vs. Issues

Have you ever found yourself fighting with your spouse about something so ridiculous you don’t even know why you are fighting?  Many of us find ourselves there…and if you haven’t yet…you might one day soon.

topics_issues

The reason why this happens is something that I discuss with those that I am about to marry.  Please note: When I say “marry,” I am not talking about me specifically marrying someone, but rather me officiating a couple’s wedding.  I feel if we don’t get that out of the way, you might be thinking that I am marrying someone new several times a year…LOL!

What I explain to the couples is that we often can find ourselves frustrated with things about our relationship.  These items we are frustrated about are so deep and personal that many times we fear bringing them up with our spouse.  As items come up that are close to the heart of what we are really frustrated about appear, we attack those with our whole being.  Our hope is that our loved one will be able to figure out our frustration is not really about the item we are discussing, rather it something much deeper.  We hope they will be bold enough to ask us the right questions to get us to open up about our true hurts.

However, more often then not, our spouse will not be able to interpret our true issue.  So, in turn, this just aggravates us all the more and drives our frustrations and hurt deeper.  The deeper this goes the tougher it is to discuss our true issue.

All this means that we stay on the Crazy Cycle (Eggerichs, 2004), fighting over the topics and never truly getting to the heart of the matter (aka the issue).  To flesh this out, this is what it would like in your relationship…

Your spouse enjoys his work buddies and he is has now begun spending at least one Friday night at the bar after a long day’s work.  However, now he is spending two nights per week out with the guys.  His wife begins to question whether she still finds her attractive because he seems to want to spend more time out of the house then within it with her.  So, when he comes home a little late one night she attacks him for this inconsideration.  He has no idea what happened, but he is starting to feel like he can’t do anything right.  Therefore, he spends more time away from the house in the environments where he feels like he excels – which is either at work or at the bar with the guys.

When feelings like this come, we need to be honest with our spouse and get to the issue rather than trying to argue about the topics.  What are your issues?  Make a pact that you will quit fighting over the topics and dive deep to the issues.

References:

Eggerichs, E.(2004). Love and respect: The love she most desires, the respect he desperately needs. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Why Me?

Christmas time should be a time where we come together and are filled with joy.  However, there are those that regret this time of the year.  Some of the reasons why they regret this time of the year is they do not get along with family, the are financially deprived, and/or they hurt because of people they have lost.  Granted, this list is not all inclusive.

What do you do if you are one that struggles through this time of the year?  This first response we might find ourselves uttering is “Why me?”  This is not a negative response; rather, this actually is a great response.  What is the first thing an alcoholic must do in order to overcome their disease?  They have to admit they have a problem.  The same is true for those that find themselves struggling.  They must come to some conclusions on why they are feeling this way.

After coming to some conclusions, they must begin creating some solutions to these issues.  For instance, lets say you struggle with the way your family makes you feel.  One of the ways to fight against this is to find some items you can hold fast to in order bring clarity to your situation.  Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

When life is gloomy, we must remember that the battle is within.  Eleanor’s quote reminds of this as well.  We are in control of how others make us feel or how we let others define us.  I know this is easier said then done, but we cannot let others label us.  If you struggle with this, then learn to write out a list of your great qualities and keep them where you can see them.

The next thing we have to remember when it comes to the holidays is that we are in control.  There is nothing wrong with being honest with yourself.  The old saying is true that we cannot select our families.  This being said, if being around your family brings back to many bad memories, then do not be around them.

I know this is difficult because this is something I have to deal with as well.  My mother and I have some issues, but I will not bore you with the back story.  After several years of dealing with the negative way she was treating me, I had to stand up for family and myself.  As much as it hurts, I had to choose my family, and my sanity, over a relationship with my mother.

My hope is that one day I will be able to reestablish a relationship with my mother.  However, there are some things she needs to do before that will happen.  In finishing this post, I want to point out that no one can blame others for their life.  We are the makers of our lives, so if we don’t like the way it is turning out, then we must begin rewriting our future.

The Christmas Letdown

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year.  This could be that my birthday is in December, but I believe it is more than just that.  I believe it is the way that people interact with others.  It is also a time where more people are willing to talk about their spiritual journey.

One of the aspects of Christmas is gifts.  We take all this time trying to find the best gifts for those that we love.  We try not to go over budget…well…preferably.  We look forward to the joy our loved ones share when they open their presents.

This brings us to an important question.  Have you ever found yourself letdown after opening a present from a loved one?  I am sure, if we were to ask our loved ones, we would find they were letdown by gifts they received from us as well.  What do you do in these moments?

When it comes to our spouse, there is nothing wrong with being honest.  However, this does not mean that we should be cruel or vindictive.  It is very important to remember that it is the thought that counts.  When we open a gift that we would never use or wear, then we need to be honest.  Let’s face it, if we keep the gift then they are going to expect us to wear or use it, so at one point they are going to know the truth.

Be open with why you do not like the particular gift.  People can connect with feelings, so share them   and you might be amazed.  People can argue against logic and/or reasoning; however, they cannot fight against how someone feels.

In the same fashion, when someone comes to us and lets us know they are not satisfied with a gift that we bought them, do not take it personally.  It is not about you – even as much as we want to make it about us.  We need to allow others the ability to return the gifts that we got them and not take it personally.  Again, in the end, what we want most is the other person to be happy and satisfied with what they receive.

The one thing I have noticed as my wife and I have been married for over 15 years is that our tastes have changed.  Early on in our relationship, I could buy her clothes without her even seeing them, and she would like 90% of what I bought her.  Now, I have her show me what she likes and I still will only get it right about 30% of the time.

In the end, Christmas is not about the gifts.  It is truly about the connections.  This Christmas, lets keep that as the focus.

What is a gift you have received that was a letdown at Christmas?  Do you still have that gift?

Overcoming the 3 “Evils” in Marriage

There are three items that are misconstrued in life and marriage.  These three things are, for some, thought to be the work of an evil being.  However, my goal through this post is to change how you see these three items.

These items were created by God and they all have a godly purpose.  Reality is in the eyes of the beholder, and through this post, its my goal to give you new eyes to see how these three items are God’s gift to us.

The first has to do with our humanity.  This fight goes back to 1 Corinthians 6 where Paul is explaining that what we do in the body does matter.  Back in Paul’s time there were those teaching that what we did in the body did not matter because God was spirit.  Since God was spirit, He was only concerned with what we did in our spirit.  Christians can look at our humanness and say it is bad.  Why?  Because it makes them do evil things, think evil thoughts, and stops them from focusing on doing Godly things.  Just because we are weak, we interpret that to mean God made a mistake in creation when he formed our humanness.  No!  Just the opposite, it is our humanness that makes us unique.  Think about it.  Angels look on us in wonder.  The Bible says they long to understand forgiveness – something they do not get the luxury of experiencing.  We have to remember that it is God who created us and gave us flesh – who made  us human.  We are the only thing, in all of our creation, that was made in his likeness.  In fact, when God  finished with the creation story the Bible says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31a).  We have to stop looking at our humanness as a weakness and begin seeing it is as what separates us from anything else in all creation.

The second misconstrued item in a marriage is  darkness.  From an early age, we look at darkness as some type of evil.  Darkness is something that we quickly learn to fear.  Why is this though?  It was not until recently that I began reviewing this whole aspect of darkness in a new light.  What I found in the creation story, in my story, and I am sure you will find in your story as well.  We are created in darkness.  Think about it…how long were you in your mother’s womb before seeing the light of day?  Our marriages go through darkness, but rather than seeing it as an evil – my aim in this post is for you to start seeing it as place to create the best possible future.  In order for a picture to be displayed to the public, it first must be developed in the dark.  The same goes for our marriages.  In order for the good to be seen in public, the bad must be dealt with in the darkness.

Finally, conflict is something seen as either dark, evil, or bad.  However, it is through conflict that we learn to grow deeper.  It is when conflict arises that our best work is done in our relationship.  We break out of the old skin, shed the old habits, and grow into our new relationship.  Conflict is what strengthens a marriage (or relationship), it should not weaken one.

Begin to see these three items in a new light in your relationship.  If you do, then you will begin to experience peace like never before.  Which of these three items do you need the most work at seeing in a different light?

Conflict Bouts

In your relationship, have you found yourself arguing about the some of the same issues?  How does this make you feel?  Do you wonder to yourself why or how you are discussing this topic again?

One of the reasons why some of these topics come back is the way each of the sexes handle conflict.  Men are more often to deal with conflict quickly and without much emotion.  Whereas, women are more cyclical when dealing with conflict.  If someone brings up an old conflict, try not taking an offense.  When they bring up old conflicts, do not look at it as they are trying to bring up old issues (or they are keeping a record or wrongs).   Rather, try to realize the other person has not experienced closure.  So, ask probing questions to help them understand what they need in order to find closure.

Second, and probably more concerning, is when a couple argues over the topics rather than the issues.  By this, I mean that couples will find themselves continually arguing (or more likely – nagging) over items that are around the heart of the matter, but not the actual issue.  This is the wife who might argue that her husband does not come home right after work.  The next time she might be frustrated that her husband seems to be hanging out more with his friends than her.  Please hear (or should I say read) me, I am not saying these could be issues.  What I am trying to say is that, the real heart to these matters might be “do you still find me attractive.”  However, rather than ask this question (where the heart of the matter is located), we will dance around this by bringing up the topics hoping our spouse gets what we are really trying to ask.  Let me just say…our spouse will NEVER GET IT.

Lastly, the other reason why conflicts come back up is that both people know there was no resolution when it was first brought up.  There are many different reasons why this happens.  However, it is best when these issues are resolved, so it is good these come back around.

When it comes to conflict, be sure to know that conflict is not bad.  Conflict does not mean that you are not heading for a divorce.  Rather, conflict is a good thing in your relationship.  It is through conflict that couples grow closer.

How do you handle conflict?  Have you found your self arguing over topics rather than issues?