Relationships are one of the most important parts of our lives. We have relationships with spouses, significant others, co-workers, bosses, relatives, and of course our friends. Relationships allow us the opportunity to feel connected to others and to share our hopes, dreams, and goals as well as our fears and uncertainties. We communicate in our relationships in hopes to find resolution to a problem or to simply bounce ideas off of another person. We seek solace in our relationships and we learn to trust others through our relationships.
When conflict arises within one of these relationships, we often find ourselves feeling sad, betrayed, angry, or hurt. Conflict is normal in relationships and there are rarely relationships that do not experience conflict at some point. Conflicts in relationships can develop for a number of reasons; however, the main issue in a relationship conflict has to do with needs of one person not being met or one person not feeling appreciated or heard. For example, a conflict with a co-worker can stem from one person feeling hurt or jealous because the co-worker was given a promotion. A conflict with a spouse or significant other can occur because of errors in communicating wants and needs to the other or an issue that needs resolving on a personal level.
Can we prevent conflict from occurring in our relationships? The short answer is no. That would require all parties in a relationship to never hurt, be saddened by, or feel angry towards another. That is not realistic. There are things we can do to help minimize the conflict and to seek a rational, agreed upon compromise. The first thing to do is listen to the other person and allow them to express their thoughts and feelings related to the conflict. If a spouse is feeling hurt that the other spouse does not contribute to the household chores, then communicating the hurt should be the first priority. How the information is communicated can diminish the likelihood of the conflict intensifying. Using “I” words and avoiding starting sentences with “you never” or “you should” is a good start to effectively communicating.
Once each person has had the opportunity to express their concerns, thoughts, and feelings, there needs to be a mutually agreed upon compromise. Each person should be willing to listen to the other’s ideas about what might work as a compromise. Sometimes a compromise is reached early in the conflict and other times it might take some patience and continued communication efforts.
Conflicts are a part of relationships and how they are handled is key to minimizing the likelihood of repeated conflicts or from conflicts becoming unresolved. The first step in conflicts that arise in our relationships is to communicate how we feel about what has happened, offer a compromise, and communicate effectively what we hope to gain from the compromise and any thoughts or feelings related to the resolution of the conflict.
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