5 healthy ways to deal with conflict

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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 never…”

“You always…”

“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.

5. Listen

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.

Comments

  1. Katie Holland says:

    I have severe anixety, and if I’m angry, sometimes I can have “anger attacks” which is basically, a panic attack due to anger. (my mom once had to tackle me to the floor and pin my down until I was calm because I threw a chair across the room and dented the wall.) Anyway, next time one of those happens, I’m really going to try and focus on these tips.

    Thanks. :)

  2. Perfect timing, I have shared this with a good friend. Thank you so much!

  3. Elizabeth, You are so right. God is the healer. And you are also right, that forgiving has nothing to do with allowing abuse to continue. I’ve shared lots of posts that support that truth, and will continue to. This post is to help us work through those conflicts that can be worked out and not letting them fester. The original devo started with those small hurts that we hide, bury, and yet they continue to affect our relationships, becoming toxic when they were never meant to be. I believe that if we can work through things — those things that are in our ball court, or in our power — with wisdom and God’s help, then we grow.

  4. I am fully convinced that only our Father in heaven, through Jesus, and His salvation, is able to change the result of hurt; instead of smoldering anger, revengeful plans, and holding ‘victim’ status…all the worldly ways of dealing with being wronged. He teaches us to pray for our enemies, do good to those who dispitefully use you, and answer evil with good. Boy! I have been challenged in this battle time and again. And daily I need to obey our Lord, or be swallowed by self pity.
    There are public crimes, and family-related crimes. I don’t believe we as Christians are supposed to be ‘doormats’, and part of healing is stopping the abuser. That can be as easy as walking away, or as difficult as getting divorced. Setting our boundaries, and reporting a crime to the police is part of doing good to those who hurt us. If we don’t voice the wrong, the wrongdoer will hurt others. I think there is confusion regarding this. Pray, move on, forgive but learn from the hurt. It is how we heal and return good to evil.
    I have personally gone through divorcing a spouse that would not stop abusing drugs and had a child by another. I lost a spouse to suicide while on medications from the VA. A relative stole family valuables(wedding and anniversary rings) while we were raising money to move with a garage sale. A son and his wife deliberately lied about keeping payments up on my mortgage, while living in my home, and it was put on auction in foreclosure. I was fortunate to gather old family pictures. I lost a home to fire! Things don’t mean much, but hearts can be broken.
    Only Our Lord, Jesus, and our Father in heaven can heal, hold up, calm fears and forgive. He opens doors and closes doors. Because He loves us, we can turn to Him, and trust Him.
    We don’t need to fix things that He will use for His purpose. We need Him, and seek Him in prayer, and let go.
    I am so relieved to know that it is not my job to judge, but His. It is my job to obey, repent, love and trust Him in all things. And He is faithful to keep us in the palm of His hand.
    Now, where did that anger go? My eyes are on Him, and my heart is safe in His care. Is pent-up anger and revenge worth eternity? Jesus knows our plight, and gave us His Holy Spirit to carry us through life’s pains. Have I asked Him to be my rock, fortress, and shield? I need Him for times and seasons, then and now, and for eternity.
    Thank you, Father, for keeping me in your hands, for Jesus who is my intercessor, no matter what. In His name, Amen.

  5. THANK you!! Just what I needed!

  6. thanks Suzie. Great advice and i see how the fine balance between explosive anger and cool resentment. Both are equally destructive. Thank you for reminding me that conflicit is part of normal, healthy marriage and family and can draw us closer.
    What valuuable insight for our teenagers!

  7. Suzie,

    Thanks for a great reminder of how to resolve these issues, not only between husband and wife, but in any relationship.

    I pray you are doing well! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

    Blessings,
    Edwina Cowgill

  8. Suzie, I feel in the midst of a conflict right now and so appreciate your words! Especially the bit of not sweeping it under the rug, which is exactly what I tend to do. Thanks for the reminder to deal with this and the encouragement to do it trusting God will work through it all. Blessings to you, Jill

  9. Father, We pray for Gina. Lead her to the Source. Assure her that nothing can separate her from your great love. If it’s medical, pour the light on the source, and if it’s from people, soothe that raw spot with your healing touch. I thank you that this rough patch does not deter from your leading, your love, your plan for Gina, and that one day she’ll look back and see a Heavenly Father carrying His daughter over the chasm to more stable ground. I ask this in the name of Jesus.
    Gina, my friend, Jill Hart, posted an amazing blog post on anger that I think may be helpful. http://cwahm.com/wordpress/2009/articles/living-life-as-a-mad-mom-hope-and-help-for-angry-moms/

  10. Father, I pray with CJ today. Lord, sometimes we don’t know where to begin because it’s bigger than us, but I pray that CJ offers it up to you, that she’s willing to give it to you. That’s a first step, and a healing step. I pray that you touch her life with your healing touch, that you fill her to overflowing with peace, and that today is a beginning of a new day. We stand together and believe this together, asking in the powerful name of Jesus Christ.

  11. Patty, These can help with your DIL. Step back. Love her, pray for her, and work on what you can work on in you (so that you’re not expending energy, thoughts, and emotions in areas that aren’t in your control) while you wait. Ask God to give you compassion, insight, wisdom, and joy that makes no sense, but fills the gaps in your hurting heart. Praying with you today.

  12. I pray that I will be healed and that I will be able to follow the steps next time.As for now I am hurting after a conflict with my husband last friday.I don’t know what to do but I am realy hurting and I don’t no what to say to him to resolve it.

  13. What great reminders you have given to be calm and cool when dealing with conflict in our houses. Thanks for the words to ponder and apply in my relationships.

  14. margaret pearce says:

    Suzie:

    Thank you so much for your soothing words this morning. My son is so angry with me that we have not been in touch for three years. I pray that when I write to him that the words I use will be healing and restore our relationship.

    Thank you, Margaret

  15. Suzie,

    Thanks so much for sharing this! You are so right on target!
    We all (including me) can be so suttle with our anger that we even justify it! I think you will help many people by the way you presented this material!
    Thank you so much for being sensitve to the Holy Spirit!
    You have a wonderful gift from the Lord!

    Blessings,
    Jeanie

  16. I needed to hear this so much there is hope!

    I having conflict with a dear friend but I believe that with God there is hope and that he sees the bigger picture and gives us tools to overcome these circumstances.

    Unfortunately the other day I fell head first into my anger and the next day I realized that I was wrong in having done so regardless of what the other person was doing to me. So I apologize I don’t get angry to often but when i do I tend to hold it in and then it tends to all flood out all of sudden.

    Pleas pray for me and for God to show me what he wants me to do or what i need to change.

  17. I have held things in for sooo long that my doctor calls me a “walking bomb” :(
    I have been to a counselor, i have had blood pressure meds, panic attacks, you name i’ve had it.
    God slowed me down and I am off of all medicines and I FROG it everyday!
    FULLY RELY ON GOD!!

    Still areas to work on but it;s not time i guess….until i read your blog today.

    Praying for each of you :) <3

  18. My anger has taken on a life of its own. I wake up scared to face the day because I can not trust what in the day might set it off. I have began to isolate myself. I have been wondering I am mentally ill. Some recent events in my life have triggered this. I am frantic. I cry out to God. I am afraid to talk about it. This is so not me, people would be shocked. I have shared with my husband and I am seeing a professional counselor. I did sign up for the Bible study. Please pray for me.

  19. I have been thinking about my anger…pushed down and bubbling. It has built up for years because I haven’t known how to deal with it in a positive way…it has caused me to be depressed.

    It feels like there is so much that I don’t even know where to start…and it feels like it is keeping me from being close to God…

    Would you join me in prayer for direction on this?

  20. You have no idea how many times that these daily devotionals have spoken directly to a situation I was facing that day–and today is no different. My husband and I are also going through some things as far as next steps for our daughter– which we have different opinions about. That’s Ok, it was just how I started to respond to the conversation this a.m. that caused me to pause and pray– Lord what is the real reason I’m reacting the way I did–which had nothing really to do with what we were discussing. I thank God for His patience and I thank you for being such a blessing and inspiration, every day.

  21. So true. The Lord is really speaking in my life because my Mother just told me the same thing this week. I am going through some hard times with my husband at this time. Thank you for your service to the people of God.

  22. I sincerely hope i can apply these suggestions to my real life problems with my daughter-inlaw….I have suffered so long with the anger and hurt….thank you for this guidance….

  23. So needed this on this morning sweet sister Suzie!!! Your words prevented me from unloading on a loved one later today. Thank you. Cyber {{hugs}}

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  1. [...] of you who are struggling with the holiday blues I recently wrote a post that might be helpful:  5 Ways to Handle Conflict. I hope that will offer direction if you are facing a holiday tug of [...]

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