I can guarantee if you ask anyone if they are okay with conflict, they will say no way. They even go as far as to say they actively avoid conflict. At Inflori Coaching, we use a self-awareness tool. One of the questions is about the likelihood of avoiding conflict. I've not come across a profile yet that doesn't score high in this area. This would tell me that as humans, we actively avoid conflict. So why is this?
We are taught from such a young age that conflict is bad, we mustn't disagree, argue or hit our brothers, sister, best friend ...... whilst the no-hitting rule is a good one there is a better way to position conflict especially when it comes to building strong and healthy relationships with those significant in our lives. The word conflict makes us thinks of wars and suffering. The definition of conflict is noun ~ a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one or the verb ~ be incompatible or at variance; clash. That doesn't sound so bad .....
Conflict means a difference. We aren't in agreement and, that's okay. If we can view conflict through a lens of being okay with differences, how does that change your view about conflicts in your relationship? Often the strongest relationships are the ones which embrace differences, discuss and debate and celebrate each other for who they are.
If we can accept that conflict or having healthy differences is a good place to be. We need to recognise that there are unhealthy conflict styles either side of this. On one side we have artificial agreements and on the other, contempt or mean-spiritedness. Let me explain further what they are and the impact they have on our relationships.
Artificial Agreements are when we yes and agreeing to something, but know we don't mean this. This is an artificial agreement and, it erodes trust and respect. This is because we often cancel arrangements last minutes or ignoring what we said we do.
In the longer term, other areas of the relationship start to be questioned. Both parties make assumptions about what the other is thinking and, the relationship slowly breaks down.
If you recognise yourself in this, ask yourself why you agreed to something you didn't want to in the first place? What stopped you speaking up for yourself? When we meet resistance in our life, it is an indicator something isn't as it should be, it is a clue to delve deeper into and a chance to increase your self-awareness and happiness.
Contempt is a big sign your relationship is in trouble. Contempt is the most destructive force in any relationship. Contempt is acting as though your partner is beneath you, belittling them, disregarding their opinions and feeling and deliberately doing things to cause offence or upset to another. It will often lead to more conflict as you get stuck in a cycle of being meaner and meaner to each other. The challenge is you often don't realise you are stuck in the quicksand.
We now know what's healthy and unhealthy conflict, so how do we stay in the safe zone? Having a healthy conflict style in a relationship relies on the following:
Listening to each other to understand what the other is saying
Accepting you are not always right
Acknowledging your partner may have a different view or feelings from to you
Speaking up for yourself in a respectful and authentic way
Not letting big issues slide, what's goes under the rug doesn't stay under the rug, it grows and seeps or explodes into the open, without warning you first
Have compassion and understanding for your partner, remember what you respect and admire about them
Speak from your own point of view and ask for support in resolving issues, here's an example, "I felt hurt when you didn't back me up with the children. I would like to understand your side. Can we talk about it find a way to fix it together?"
If your relationship is it worth it, so is the difficult conversation. Be brave you have so much to gain. I know how challenging relationships can be and how exhausting it is when things don't feel right. It is emotionally draining and you can feel so alone. Don't suffer, if you need support make the first step, and start today, with a no obligation chat. I'm sure you feel better once you say things out loud.
Don't forget to tune into the weekly Podcast Geordie Lass and Doc Sass for all your relationship hot topics and questions, on all major platforms.