Managing conflict in your relationship can bring up intense feelings
In a healthy relationship, communication is key. When you communicate effectively, you understand your partner better and make your relationship stronger.
Conflict occurs when you feel hurt (negative emotion) and you want to resolve the pain. It is no different to having a physical pain (cramp, headache, stubbing your toe) and wanting the pain to go away. Managing conflict is to ease the pain.
Emotional pain is often attributed to someone else. For example: “You made me feel this way”. Whilst this is actually incorrect, each of us is responsible for our own feelings, it is the most common interpretation.
It is instinctive therefore, to want that someone else to take away your pain – either by an apology, or at least an acknowledgement that you have been hurt. It may have been a pain of being criticised or embarrassed or offended or put down or misrepresented or even simply misunderstood. The list of what you might feel is endless, depending on how you interpreted or appraised the event.
Your feeling is valid. But the reality of the event may be different to your perception. Your feeling is a stress response felt in your body based on how you interpreted the situation. To reduce your pain it is important to stop and think if there is any other way you could interpret the situation. Was the person actually putting you down, for example, or was something else going on? Perhaps he was trying to tease you and it came out wrong. Perhaps he was grumpy about something else and you are the recipient of that emotion.
If you can see the event from a different perspective you will be able to reduce your own pain, and no conflict may result. Resolving pain from within reduces the need for conflict. And you can use the E-A-R technique below to assist you to resolve pain within.
Sensitive people are likely to avoid conflict by withdrawing and not saying anything, but this is not necessarily resolution. There are times therefore that bringing up a hurt to talk it through is necessary. It is how you behave during this discussion, which has the potential for becoming conflict, and determines whether or not more resentments are incurred.
Strategies for managing conflict
- If you have something you want to talk through, don’t get into discussion when either of you is tired, over stimulated or already stressed out about something else. Try to find a protected calming place for your discussion. In public is not a good idea.
- Bring up the topic gently, with tact and whatever appreciation you can have about what the other has already done to minimize the problem. Acknowledge that you may have a quite different perspective on the matter than the other person.
- Look for every place where you can compromise or give in without feeling you have violated your own needs.
- If things are getting too worked up, suggest a time out. Make the time out at least twenty minutes, that’s how long it takes to return to “normal” and to be able to recommence the discussion without losing control. Agree when to resume the discussion; don’t put it off too long.
- Use an effective communication framework to construct your sentences. Explain how you feel because of the event, not what the other person did. (FS16 Effective Communication Framework). Briefly, “I felt put down” will be received better than “You put me down”.
- Learn to listen to what the other person is feeling. You are not the only one with feelings about the past event, nor about this current discussion. You do not have a monopoly on bad feelings. Sometimes the other person has no resentment about the past event you want to discuss, but will be annoyed or irritated about having to talk about it again. Perhaps it is simply the wrong timing that is causing the irritation, not the fact that you have something to talk about.
E-A-R is an acronym that stands for Event – Appraisal – Response. Using this technique will enable you to be consistent in the way you behave with and speak to others. You will be trusted by others because you display consistent behaviors and manner. People with unpredictable behaviors cannot be trusted and cause others to have fear and uncertainty around them – stress!
EVENT – When an Event happens that causes you to have a negative emotion (eg, you feel offended) remember that the emotion is a stress response in your body created because your brain has perceived some sort of threat. This may or may not be the reality. Take time to check the reality of the situation.
APPRAISAL – Appraise the event again – Is the person really ignoring you, criticizing you, or could there be a different perspective. It is entirely possible that your perception is correct. Nonetheless, think before you speak.
RESPONSE – A response is a considered way of behaving. You might choose to say nothing at all. Or you may choose to say nothing for now, until you have thought some more, or there is a better place and time. And when you do say something you will be in control enough to construct your sentences effectively, also to listen to what the other person has to say. We listen better when we are not worked up.
You may not be able to control what you feel initially, but you can control what you do about those feelings. In time, with practice at changing perceptions, using the E-A-R technique, you will even be able to feel differently about things as they occur. Remember, your perception is your reality, but it may not be THE reality. Because you are choosing how to respond, rather than simply having a reaction, you will feel in control of how you behave, and you will be less likely to damage relationships. This will increase your self esteem, as you will be proud of your behaviour and there will be fewer regrets about what you did or said
Knowing how to manage conflict is one of the most important steps in rebuilding your relationship.
When you’re trying to fix your relationship but your emotions are out of control, you will always end up fighting. It’s time to get some professional help.
You can change this today.
I can help you to:
- Grow your emotional skills – emotional skills are far more important than any functional skill in achieving a high level of peace and calm within oneself.
- Know your emotional style – your emotional style effects how you react in emotional situations.
- Understand your emotional brain – learn how your brain effects your personal emotions.