Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Conflict Resolution - Tips to Manage Conflict in your Relationship

Were you ever surprised to hear a barrage of never-before-heard complaints about you from your partner? Or shocked to learn that your partner is leaving for reasons you had no idea were a problem? Nothing had ever been said. It's a complete surprise. You are likely in a relationship with a conflict avoider.

The person in a relationship who avoids conflict often does not let the other person know what their needs are and what they are thinking. They tend to "keep the peace" at all costs. And the cost can be high.

Eventually, the conflict avoider becomes resentful, angry or even depressed. At some point they cannot contain the buildup of their resentments and react in an unhealthy manner. For example: They may without warning angrily enumerate all that is wrong with you and the relationship. They may quietly and resentfully resolve to leave the relationship. They may seek to have their needs met through an affair. They may emotionally withdraw in the relationship.

The conflict avoider generally does not give their partner enough information to have a healthy relationship. Often the conflict avoider blames their partner. However, if their partner does not know there is a problem, how can they address it or be held accountable for it? Conflict avoiders actually create a much bigger conflict by not addressing their everyday concerns.

Conflict is often considered "bad" by the conflict avoider. They may have learned while growing up that conflict meant arguments, fighting or even violence. They became uncomfortable, anxious or fearful of conflict because they lacked a positive role model.

Indeed, conflict is a healthy part of a relationship. Conflict means there are differences in perceptions, beliefs and values. Conflict can be addressed in a very civil manner and can produce a healthy outcome and a healthier relationship. Conflict avoiders actually have a chance to have their needs met if they faced their fear and expressed their needs in an assertive manner. However, not every conflict needs to be addressed. Pick the conflicts that are worth it to you and your relationship.

Tips for conflict resolution in a relationship:

  • Recognize that conflict means there is a difference in perception, personal value, belief or feeling about something.
  • Conflict is not something to be feared.
  • Conflict is not inherently "bad".
  • Conflict ignored does not resolve but festers. It creates an unhealthy relationship within you and with others.
  • Conflict can trigger strong emotions.
  • Conflict can be addressed in a healthy manner.
  • Try to understand what emotion you are feeling and why you might be feeling it.
  • Let the other person know your concerns.
  • Ask the other person what they heard you say - this clarifies if they understood your viewpoint.
  • Verbalize what you think the other person is saying to clarify your understanding of their viewpoint.
  • Be respectful of each other.
  • Don't blame or bring up all the wrongs of the past.
  • Don't name call.
  • Don't say "you always..." or "you never....
  • Work on resolving the conflict - it's not about winning or losing. It's about maintaining and strengthening your relationship.
  • Address the conflict when it arises. This doesn't necessarily mean the moment you have conflict you have to act upon it. It may be better to take time to think through your concerns and needs before bringing them up.
  • No matter how long you have been together:
    • Don't expect the other person to read your mind. They can't.
    • Don't think you can read the other person's mind. You can't.

There are many articles written about conflict resolution. If you have difficulty identifying your own behaviors and fears about conflict or are having trouble implementing healthy conflict management skills, seek help from a professional either as an individual or as a couple. Life can be better. You may actually get your needs met in your relationship when you thought you never would.


The information contained in this website should not be considered by anyone viewing the website as a substitute for appropriate diagnosis and treatment provided by a licensed health practitioner. All content is for general purposes only. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website. Mary Anne Zeh, A.P.R.N., C.S., LLC is not responsible or liable for the content of any site accessed through this website.

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