Dispute, even though we often think of it as something to be avoided, is part of everyone’s lives. It will never go away. The sooner we accept that, the better. Yet, we can become skilled at it, and we can see the silver lining it bears. For instance, it reminds us that we are not all the same, and importantly, will never be. It tells us where I end and where you begin, and in effect, maintains our diverse personhoods. Conflict drives out our deepest emotions and indignities, our moral attitudes and sense of right and wrong. They need to be expressed, talked about, and most importantly shackled to labor for productive solutions, not immediate or short-term releases. Anger indicates to us something truthful, yet calls us to a responsibility with that truth: every person has the responsibility to break the cycle of violence.
Healthy Conflict Tips
Avoid Labelling: Applying labels that degrade and demean, yet, in effect provide minimal information about a situation. Ex. An individual is driving in a car and cut off, the angered driver says: “What a B—h”. The angered driver applied a label, instead of saying: “I am angry [or afraid or unhappy] at this individual [who I do not know anything else about their life or moral character], who has, in this one instance, cut me off.”
Avoid Perseverating: This is obsessive thinking about the conflict. It is magnifies the perceived threat.
Do Practice Self-Calming: Use strategies to reduce emotional stress related to the conflict, such as Yoga, Meditation, Reading, Breathing Exercises, and Physical Fitness
Do Practice Resilience: Draw on support, spiritual activities, and other resources when conflict continues in the long term
Avoid Blaming: When we blame we (incorrectly) assume that with the absence of the perceived problem, we would be without discomfort, or happier, or settled. Yet, again and again, when the issue of discomfort is removed, it is often replaced almost instantly by another. And the cycle continues.
Do Use “I” Statements: “I” feel, or “from my perspective”.
Avoid Black-and-White Thinking: This is when we see ourselves as the White Knight, bearing goodness in the midst of Pure Evil. This is the storyline that drives the popular movies, including Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Braveheart. The reality is more mixed- persons with aspects of both poles, operating in complex interaction.
Avoid Universalizing: They “always” or “every time” or “forever”.
Do Speak Directly: State your needs, wants, and desires clearly and honestly; leaving adequate space for the other party to do the same.
Do Ask for Feedback: It is an art to be able to receive feedback, and not be threatened by it.
Do Be Open to Disagreement: If respectful, disagreement is a healthy and normal part of every relationship.
Do Be ok with “No’s”: Every person has a right to set their own limits and say “no”. However, that realization requires we afford the same freedom to others, and accept “no” from time to time.
Do Ask for a Break: If escalation is imminent, ask to resume when cooler heads prevail
Do Be Open: Remember, when conflict is ongoing we anticipate negative interactions and interpret the other persons expressions through the lens of conflict. They may smile at us, whereas we interpret it as a malicious “The Joker” smile. Be openness to the newness of every interaction, meaning what it means, without the interpretive baggage.