It happens in every relationship. Whether a huge
conflict or a small conflict, every unresolved conflict leaves a wound in the
relationship. This is true for intimate relationships, family relationship,
friendships, and in the workplace. Although I am focusing on intimate
relationships, the three foundational secrets are the same in every arena!
Why is conflict so difficult to deal with? Well, first of all, research says that only 70% of the population struggles with conflict. The other 30% thrive on it.
A short paragraph to the 30% who thrive on conflict. Please make note and realize that conflict wounds relationships. Begin to learn to thrive on things that bring healing, not on things that bring harm.
I’m aware that is easier said than done, but you should begin to monitor yourself. When you find yourself creating or thriving in a moment of conflict, step up to a higher place and ask yourself this question: “How can I thrive in this moment without creating or jumping into conflict?” You will be amazed at how it improves your blood pressure, your health, and your self-esteem.
Back to the original question which is meant for the other 70% of the population. Why is conflict so difficult to deal with?
The number one reason that conflict is so difficult is that when conflict arises, we have a natural biochemical response. As soon as we label something “conflict“ the brain notifies the adrenaline system to launch into fight or flight. At that moment a huge adrenaline dump occurs in our system.
Nature designed this response as a crucial part of maintaining our safety. Because it heightens our visual acuity, increases our heart rate, and releases chemicals in our body that create a numbness to pain. However, it also blocks our ability to be calm, and to be at our best.
When those dumps occur repeatedly, it can damage our health. It can cause things such as:
- Weakened immune system
- Restlessness and irritability
- Poor sleep, nightmares and insomnia
- Ulcers, digestive problems, appetite disruption or weight changes
- Heart stress to the point of cardiovascular damage
- Anxiety and/ or depression
- Extreme or ongoing fatigue
In other words, our entire health is in a moment
of decline anytime we are faced with conflict. We are not at our best to
resolve things, and thus we typically choose fight or flight.
Fight? The problem with fight is that we are automatically thrust into being an opponent. Although countless research projects have shown us that one of the real keys to resolving conflict is to come together side-by-side rather than entering the boxing ring with plans to pummel one another.
Flight? The problem with flight is that it is actually a more aggressive wound on the relationship than getting in the ring. The person running away actually finds no relief, and quite often saves relationships in order to never have to address the conflict. Normally the flight is followed by days or even weeks of silence or complete disappearing. It’s a passive aggressive act that does great great damage to the relationship. And of course the conflict is left unresolved.
The second major reason that conflict is
difficult to deal with is that many of us have such poor role models of
resolving conflict. Hollywood and the media make millions on presenting
conflict as a good thing. They often feature people at their worst during
conflict resolution, leaving the rest of us to assume that conflicts cannot be
The third major reason conflict is difficult to resolve is that it requires emotional and relationship maturity. How many books have you read about that? How many documentaries have you seen about it? How many of you have never even heard the words? LOL!
I will have more about emotional and relationship maturity in coming articles and blogs. For now, the three foundational secrets for resolving conflict that I will share are all pieces of relationship and emotional maturity. So you can start the journey to maturity by taking heed.
What are the three foundational secrets to resolving conflict? Before ever addressing conflict, you should do an inventory of yourself and make sure these three crucial foundational pieces are in place internally.
- Embrace the truth that you can be right, or you can have the relationship, but perhaps not both.
The very need to prove that you are right displays more devotion to your thoughts, your feelings, and your ego then it does to investing in the relationship. The moment you begin to argue that you are right, you are inadvertently (or perhaps on purpose) saying to the person or group you were in conflict with… “I care about me and my position on this matter for more than I care about you or us.”
Not exactly conducive to healing or investing into the relationship!
People often ask, well why can’t I argue that I am right? My response is always the same. You can! But at the cost of your relationship. Just be honest with yourself about what is more important. If your being “Right” is the top priority, you must realize that you are purposefully damaging the relationship.
It takes for more courage to address your lack of commitment to the relationship in a healthy way than to hammer it with your “rightness.” Take the high road, and postpone the conversation, or stop yourself. I know this is difficult, but I am confident that you can and will do it
2. Realize there is no win unless there is a win/win.
There are many books and articles with titles similar to this… “There is no winning in healthy relationships.”
I understand the concept that there should be no time when one emerges feeling like a winner and the other emerges feeling like a loser. But in every conflict, there is a way for both to win.
Win/wins normally occur when both listen to the other respectfully, reflect back on what they have heard, and then share their perspective with calmness, respect, and kindness.
This opens the door to resolution and sets the momentum forward, which restores and instills hope into the relationship.
3. Learn and memorize the six magical words.
Here are the six magical words:
“I was wrong. Please forgive me.”
Then ZIP IT! (That’s a polite way to say shut up)
I know, I can read your mind at this moment… “Dr. Neecie, do you mean I really have to shut up and that I can’t explain why I was wrong?” Yes! That’s exactly what I mean. When you say, “I was wrong, please forgive me….” And then begin to defend and explain, the very act of defending and explaining begins to destroy the benefit of your six words! The magic is gone! I know! I know! I’m asking you to step up to great emotional and relationship maturity. It may seem like the most difficult thing you’ve ever done.
If it’s done for a pure and mature place, it will bring a beautiful connection.
If you do it while mockingly repeating the words and/or rolling your eyes, it conveys that you are going through the motions insincerely and that you truly are an opponent.
If you truly believe you are not wrong about your position or what you’ve done, you can replace the six magical words with 9 magical words:
“I have not handled this well, please forgive me. “
If you will press pause in the face of conflict and make sure these three foundational attitudes are in place, I can assure you that you will have a much different experience dealing with conflict.
These are the steps to conflict resolution that I use in my practice and in training life coaches. (You can click on the button below to download them). However, they always come accompanied with the warning: “trying these at home without first embracing the three magical steps listed above can be dangerous!” You must begin with three foundational secrets (which are actually truths and attitudes) before any of the steps to resolving conflict have any possibility of leaving to resolution.
I want to encourage you to “use” conflict to build relationships, because failing to do so will cause harm to and wound the relationship.
I have found through the years that once understood, people want to do things to build up and strengthen their relationships. This may take practice, and you may not get it perfect the first time or certainly not every time. Keep in mind that perfection is often the enemy of progress and growth.
Start today. Dedicate yourself to improving with each conflict. I believe you will, and I believe that you will see great growth in yourself, and a richer, sweeter relationship!