Dealing With Conflict
I don't enjoy being on the receiving end of anger, abuse or criticism and I don't think I'm alone in that. But the old saying about not being able to please all of the people all of the time, is really true. When I fail to live up to people's needs or expectations (or my own) I can expect conflict. We've been trained to think of conflict as a dirty word, but it actually has a lot of positive benefits.
Benefits Of Conflict
It offers us the chance to:
- Explore creative solutions.
- Be exposed to new and stimulating ways of thinking and reasoning.
- Challenge and/or strengthen what we believe in and stand for.
- Change and grow.
- Evaluate ourselves and our performance.
- Stimulate problem solving.
- Clarify roles, rules and boundaries.
So, if there are good things to be gained from conflict, how can we respond in ways which will let us take full advantage of those benefits? It's really helpful to take an honest look at how we typically respond to conflict now: even get some feedback from family and friends if you're feeling courageous enough!
Helpful Responses To Conflict
- Drop your defensiveness. If you are focused on protecting yourself, then you will shut out the other person.
- Listen much more than you talk. After all, you've already heard everything you have to say, so you'll only learn something new if you zip the lip. Besides, by holding back before you speak, you are more likely to think your responses through and not rush in with comments that could add fuel to the fire.
- Breathe. By slowing down your breathing rate, you also put the brakes on anger and anxiety.
- Take a step back. If you can try to be an observer of the other person, rather than planning your next move, things look different.
- Try stepping into their shoes. If you can focus more on the feelings being expressed, rather than just the words being used, it may give a glimpse as to their motivation.
- Practise "big picture" thinking. Try to realistically assess just how important this particular issue is in the grand scheme of things.
- Hold on to your personal integrity. Stay courteous. Conflict should never be about power plays or "winning".
- Be honest about what's being said. Is it true, relevant or necessary?
- Seek impartial input from a third party you can trust to be honest.
- Look for the lesson in the conflict. Is there an opportunity here for you to learn about yourself, the situation or the other person?
- Don't camp there. Once the conflict is over, let it go and be prepared to move on (even if the other person isn't). This may involve forgiveness, apologising or simply committing to a new direction.
At Point of Change Counselling, we have years of experience in helping people hold up a mirror to see how they really respond to conflict. If you need a listening, unbiased ear or some honest feedback, then working with a counsellor can be the answer.
For help in coping with conflict, contact Alli at Point Of Change Counselling and make an appointment.