When there is conflict in a relationship, the last thing that many of us want to do is to have a conversation with the other person, especially if we feel that they have wronged us.
Instead, we’d rather stand our ground and wait for them to apologize so we can bestow forgiveness. And if that doesn’t happen, we might try to avoid the topic or the person or brush it under the rug and hope things just resolve themselves.
However, if you want a resolution to the tension and pain that the conflict has caused, it really is a good idea to talk to the other person. Many times, you can gain insight into why the conflict began and learn what steps are necessary to heal the relationship and yourself!
Try these methods to increase dialogue with others and strengthen your relationships:
1. Begin to reopen communication by listening. You can learn about the other person’s feelings and beliefs when you practice active listening. Many conflicts begin when one of the parties wants to be heard, as we all do, but believes that no one is listening.
· Rather than thinking about whether you agree with what the speaker is saying, learn to focus on their words. Give the speaker verbal and visual cues that let them know that you hear what they’re saying.
· When you truly listen and begin to understand how the other person feels and thinks, you get closer to resolving the conflict. You no longer care about being right or winning the argument, but instead about finding a true resolution.
2. Set some ground rules. Make it safe for the other party to open up to you, and for you to share your perspective.
· Set a time limit for each person to speak, and the other person to listen. Usually, 5 to 10 minutes is a good time frame. This allows each person to speak freely and can help prevent listening to respond — you’ll actively listen instead of keeping track of what you want to say when they’re done speaking.
· Then, the listener should summarize what they’ve heard, so the speaker knows they were listening and understood their meaning. And if what the listener heard isn’t what the speaker meant, it allows for clarification rather than continued misunderstanding.
· Swap places and allow the other party to share their thoughts.
3. Emphasize the positive. Avoid placing blame and making demands.
· Let the other person know how their actions affect you without attacking them or making accusations. Use statements such as “I felt…” and “This action really hurt me because…” Don’t assume you know what their intentions were.
· Explain what they can do to make it easier for you to communicate with them. Ask what you can do to enhance your communications. Remember that no matter how it feels to one person, communication is always a two-way street. There is almost always something both people can do to make it better.
· Avoid yelling matches. When we yell at one another, we are no longer listening, but trying to force our view on the other. If you feel frustrated and tempted to yell, take a timeout and agree to discuss the situation again once you’ve regained control of your feelings. A 20-minute break can be just right for getting your feelings under control.
· Rather than making demands or giving ultimatums, let your partner know how you feel and what you want by making a respectful request, with the full understanding that they have the freedom to comply or deny the request.
· Take ownership of your part in misunderstandings. Determine how the choices you’ve made may have led up to the current conflict. Even if you both agree that your partner shoulders most of the fault or blame, chances are good that you still played a role yourself. Being able to acknowledge that can make it a lot easier to resolve conflict and move on from it.
4. Learn to respond rather than react. Take the time to plan your response, rather than letting your emotions get away from you. Consider how your response will be received.
· If you have a hard time managing your anger or other emotions, relaxation techniques like taking a deep breath can help you lower your stress and deal more effectively with them.
· Remember that what we say in the heat of the moment (reacting) and what we really mean (responding) may not be one and the same. Take the time to think through what you want to say and refine it until the words you will say truly reflect what you mean to cut down on misunderstandings.
· Don’t forget that you can take a timeout so you can get your feelings under control and figure out how you want to respond.
Conflict resolution isn’t about yelling, being right, or persuading someone to see things your way. True conflict resolution is about being able to communicate, work together, and find a solution to the conflict — even if that solution isn’t your idea.
When you use these steps, you can resolve conflict in any of your relationships. Whether it’s a colleague at work, relative, friend, spouse, or even your child, these steps can bring you closer together while solving any problems you might face.
While most of us spend a good part of our day talking with others, true communication takes time and practice to master. These tips can help you to develop your dialogue skills and strengthen your relationships with others.
Wendy Miller is a Single Mom Coach & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she began using meditation and other tools, to heal herself, set boundaries, and only engage in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love & happiness they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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