Why do we react with such surprise when we face conflict in our relationships? The only relationships in which you will never experience conflict are relationships that simply don’t matter. When you are indifferent to a relationship, differences mean nothing to you but when you truly care about someone, the stakes are higher and this sometimes leads to tension.
The unique thing about conflict is that it never leaves your relationship the same. You will always end up a notch higher or lower in your love and understanding of each other when the issue has blown over. Clashes will either regenerate or degenerate your relationship.
Conflict in a relationship is like a crossroad; it can lead to closeness or crisis depending on the choices you make. Managing conflict is really about choices. It is not about the issue that is upsetting you. It is about the choices you are making and where those choices are taking your relationship. The ability to make the right choices in the face of conflict is one of the most critical survival skills for any relationship.
Here are eight choices which will turn every conflict into an opportunity for growth:
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Starting from a platform of mutual respect means that you will both emerge from the conflict with your dignity intact. Attack the problem, not the person. The other person should not feel violated by the way you express yourself in a disagreement. Choosing your words carefully is more important than choosing your position. The aim is to resolve the conflict, not to score points.
Assume the best from the very start. Don’t jump to the conclusion that your partner is out to hurt you. Before you even hear an explanation, position yourself with an understanding heart. Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person.
This is the first active step towards resolution. We all have inherent habits which short-circuit our communication when we are upset. If you have a tendency to attack, cool off before you speak up. Don’t use your creative genius with words to express your anger or you will make the best speech you will live to regret. On the other hand, crawling into your shell and refusing to talk things over is just as destructive. Learn the art of talking things over.
Don’t reach into the past to gather ammunition for today’s conflict; that just makes things messy. Do you instinctively turn into a historian in the face of a conflict? It is unproductive to try to gain unfair advantage by reminding someone about their past mistakes. Focus on the issue at hand and deal with it decisively without complicating matters.
Some people love an argument just for the sake of it. You are in a relationship, not a sparring competition. Love has nothing to prove so you really don’t need to have the last word. There is no point in winning the argument and losing your relationship.
Take responsibility and don’t play the blame game. Hold yourself responsible for the way you feel rather than abdicating responsibility to your partner. Your attitude and actions should not depend on someone else’s behaviour.
Choosing forgiveness means extending mercy even when your partner has not asked for it; just like God did for you. It means being prepared to apologise for your five percent even when your partner is ninety-five percent wrong. Don’t let pride get the better of you. It is a mark of maturity to be quick to say you are sorry and truly mean it. When you sow forgiveness, you can only reap forgiveness.
Conflict is an open door in a relationship. It is an opportunity for the Lordship of Christ or the interference of the devil. Both sides are keenly interested in how you respond in a crisis. ‘If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry—get over it quickly; for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the devil.’ Ephesians 4:26-27 (TLB)
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