If you’ve come over from Encouragement for Today, welcome!
Conflict. It can be scary, but it shouldn’t be. Not if it’s handled in a healthy way. You see, conflict is inevitable. We all see life through our lens. Through our experiences. Through our point of view. We are bound to encounter someone who has an opposite opinion.
Maybe dealing with it when it’s a stranger is easy enough, but when it’s family it’s harder. You don’t want to hurt them. You are afraid that conflict will turn into drama, or drive a wedge between you, or just end in a bigger mess than you started with.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. While there’s no easy formula to solve conflict, there are healthy approaches to work through conflict with those you love.
1. Don’t tackle conflict when you’re angry.
If tempers are flaring there’s a real possibility of harsh words, comments that you later wish you could take back, and emotions that drive you in a direction you don’t want to go.
Take a minute, or two, or an hour or a day. Whatever it takes. Back away. Assure your loved one that this issue is important to you, that they are important to you, but that you want to work through it when you both can do so without anger.
2. Get rid of “you” words
“You” words accuse. They put your loved on on the defense. What is the real issue? What do you really need? What other words can convey this in a way that isn’t accusing, but that shares your needs?
“I need you to hug me and tell me I’m appreciated. Your touch means so much to me.”
“I’m overwhelmed and when you help it takes a burden off of me. How can we work together to make this happen?”
“I will respect you when I talk to you because you matter to me, but I need the same from you.”
3. Don’t brush it under the rug.
I spoke with a woman this past weekend. She shared her story, and I could sense how painful it was to deal with the mess that had developed in her relationship with her husband.
“When you talked with him about it, what did he say?” I asked.
“I haven’t told him.”
“Really? How long have you been carrying this alone?”
“Two years,” she said with tears in her eyes.
That’s too long. She feared what might happen if she brought it up, but I feared for her if she didn’t. Brushing it under the rug doesn’t make it go away. It just hides deep inside of you, festering.
Deal with conflict quickly. Share your needs. Work toward a solution. If the other person isn’t willing to work toward a healthy resolution, at least you’re not pushing it down anymore. You can work on you (counseling, prayer, encouragement from a trusted pastor or friend) while you wait.
4. Be straightforward
This is where conflict can get messy. We go all around the issue. We bring up old stuff. We are silent, hoping they’ll get it–how angry we are, how hurt we feel. None of these are healthy.
Be straightforward. Don’t use a lot of words. Don’t cloud the issue. Pinpoint the real issue and state it. Maybe you need time to clarify it for yourself (sometimes we are angry and aren’t sure exactly where the source is). Pray and invite God into the conversation.
There are always two sides. One may be clearly wrong, but understanding where they are coming from might help both of you as you work through the issues.
Approach them with a gentle heart and a willingness to hear what they have to say. Let them know you want to hear, that you’ll try to understand. Unpack what they have to say. Look at it fully. Is there something you missed, or something that sheds light on why this is a problem or recurring issue?
Conflict happens. Even in normal families and relationships. In fact, tackling conflict can be a truly healthy way to grow closer as you work through problems and find solutions that work for you and your loved one.