It is easy to lock horns, sometimes with those near and dear, about opinions on favorite subjects…like religion, politics, and finances. This list is endless.
Hardly constructive, these exchanges resemble debates or ping-pong games and serve only to inflame emotions and entrench the participants. How do normally intelligent and articulate people fall into such unproductive patterns? And what can be done about it? The answers to both questions lie in the roles we instinctively and sometimes unconsciously adopt when confronted by conflict.
Understanding the cost of conflict is a major factor in persuading contesting parties to attempt conflict resolution and turn their conflict into collaboration. Stewart Levine in his excellent book “Getting to Resolution – Turning Conflict into Resolution” identifies four costs of conflict: direct costs, productivity costs, continuity costs, and emotional costs.
Conflict in a relationship is both normal and painful. In working with couples I have found that it’s the successful resolution of the conflict that strengthens the couple’s bond and brings them closer together. The resolution comes only by walking through the conflict and not around it.
Teaching kids to deal with conflict effectively and peacefully is perhaps the biggest challenge facing adults today. Children’s disagreements both at home and at school can be noisy, physical and psychologically hurtful. The approach to conflict resolution learned and practised in childhood often stays for life.
Most people don’t want to cause upset by confronting people. But putting up with bad treatment actually harms relationships. Bottling things up causes pressure and leaves you open to the risk of exploding. Confrontation may not be pleasant but it is sometimes necessary. It’s time to start standing up for yourself.