We all have times where we have to try and deal with conflict in our relationships. Even if you don’t have a baby (or kids), it’s likely that you’ll get upset with your partner at some point. And if you factor in other relationships we have – family, work, friends or acquaintances – then the chances we’ll come across someone we clash with are pretty high!
Conflict can mean different things too. It could mean an outright row. Perhaps it’s someone criticising how you do things or constantly trying to undermine you. Or an ongoing disagreement that keeps cropping up time and time again without ever getting resolved.
Whether it’s conflict with your partner, the in-laws, your own family or other mums, it can really put a downer on things. Plus if left unresolved, it will have a huge impact on your relationship or friendship in the longer term.
Whilst it’s not always easy to resolve conflict there are a few things you can do to help. Here are 3 tips you can use to help you understand and resolve any issues you currently have.
#1 – Aim to understand what’s behind it
We often try to deal with conflict by proving that we’re the ones in the right. Even if we are, that’s not helpful. It’s rare to be able to convince someone else that they are wrong. Mostly they don’t want to hear it, sometimes they’re too embarrassed to admit it. And let’s be honest, they might also be right.
Instead you should be aiming to understand what is behind the conflict. Think about why it is so important to you to be the one who is right. What does it mean to you if someone disagrees with you? What might be behind the other persons feelings?
Let’s say that you keep arguing with your partner about him getting home late. The fact that he comes home after the kids are in bed is the superficial argument. At a deeper level it might be that you resent the fact that he leaves you to deal with the kids bedtime. Or that you feel sad he is missing out on precious time with the kids. On his side he might be feeling really pressured to provide for the family so does a lot of overtime. Or maybe even feeling left out or excluded of the family meaning he doesn’t feel that comfortable at home.
Or perhaps you are finding that your mother in law keeps telling you how you should be looking after your baby. You might feel that she is interfering or criticising your parenting. But if you stop and think on a deeper level you might be able to see that she’s feeling threatened by your new role in her son’s life. Or worried that she’s not necessary to either of you so she’s trying to make herself useful.
Knowing what’s behind conflict gives you choices. You can chose to let it go. You can chose to get right to the root of the issue to resolve it. Or perhaps you might change your approach or even opinion on the situation. It also means you can have more productive conversations about whatever it is. Giving you a much better chance of changing the situation and diffusing the conflict.
#2 – Keep discussions focused
The first thing you should do to keep your conversations focused is to avoid dragging other issues into the discussion.
If you know someone long enough you’ll start to collect a list of things they’ve done wrong. Or times that they upset you, didn’t support you or let you down. Ideally we’d deal with each situation as and when it arises. If we don’t, it can start to fester and keep cropping up when we’re pissed off with our partners.
When you’re dealing with conflict, make sure you are just dealing with the issue at hand. If you’re arguing about your partner not doing the washing up don’t bring up the fact that 3 months ago he said he’d decorate a room but hasn’t. If the row is about him getting home late don’t throw in that you also hate how he doesn’t help out round the house. This helps to keep things focused on finding the right solution for the current problem without going down a rabbit hole of blaming and shaming. It also helps to stop the argument escalating into something much bigger.
The second thing you can do is only focus on one problem at a time. It goes without saying that dealing with one issue is much easier than trying to untangle a whole raft of them. Also make sure you are focusing on the ‘right’ issue. As with the point above, if it really is a small thing then focus on that. Don’t bring every other fault, wrongdoing or complaint into the discussion. Equally, if the conflict is being driven by something deeper, don’t focus on the small problem. Tackle the real issue in the discussion instead. By discussing the ‘right’ thing you have a much greater chance of reducing or removing conflict between you.
#3 – Keep talking about it
Conflict rarely just goes away and it can put a real dent in our happiness. If we don’t resolve issues we can feel tense and on edge. Especially when we’re around the person we have the conflict with. Chances are though, if you are dealing with conflict, that it isn’t just a ‘have a quick chat and it’s solved’ issue. It’s probably more likely an ongoing disagreement or something that keeps re-occurring between you and whoever it is.
The problem is that it’s not going to go away. If you’re very lucky, time might pass and whatever it is might not be an issue but even if that’s the case, do you want to be miserable for however long that takes?
Rather than ignoring it or letting it fester, aim to keep talking about it. If it’s a particularly difficult issue then it’s better to have lots of little conversations where you make small progress rather than trying to have one massive heart to heart that gets heated and emotional.
Try to make time to talk to the other person involved. It’s important to do this with the aim of resolving the conflict so the two of you have a better relationship. It can be that you resolve things by both agreeing to disagree. Look to understand each others point of view and what the feelings are behind the conflict. This will help you to be compassionate and considerate to each other and ultimately find a way forward.
So there you have it. 3 tips to help you deal with conflict. It’s not easy and can take a lot of effort but it is effort well invested. We all want a happy and harmonious life. Sometimes we just need to work a little harder to get it.
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