In maintaining a health relationship, we previously discussed the stages of relationships. This time we will round out the topic by going over the behaviors that intensify conflict along with the behaviors that diminish conflict. There are many areas in which differences may appear in our relationships. We may find that we disagree about politics or religion, or we may have different styles of communication which could become problematic over time. Healthy relationships expect and allow for differences – in a healthy relationship, you will find ways to work through them together.
Behaviors That Intensify Conflict
Criticism – Negating or blaming your partner in issuing a complaint. “You are so inconsiderate when…” is a criticism that could provoke defensiveness in your partner.
Contempt – Scorn, disrespect, or disgracing your partner. Some forms of contempt underlie verbal abuse. “You are so dumb…”
Defensiveness – Denying a problem or denying your share of personal responsibility for problems in the relationship.
Stonewalling – When a partner is stonewalling in communication in a relationship, they are usually using delaying or stalling tactics, refusing to answer questions, doing what can be done to hinder or obstruct a discussion, or bluntly refusing to cooperate with their partner. This behavior usually drives away and rejects their partner.
Flooding – Overwhelming the other person with a bombardment of words or emotional outbursts that do not allow a true dialogue between the two of you.
Behaviors That Diminish Conflict
Set Boundaries – Boundaries are the limits we set to protect ourselves. Some examples of boundary-setting for conflict are: No name calling; no use of obscenities; no yelling; no going to bed angry; and, keep past arguments in the past.
Clearly Communicate Your Needs – If you want or need something from your partner, it should be your responsibility to communicate those needs clearly and directly.
Identify And Own Your Feelings – Using “I” statements helps describe your feelings. For example – “I feel upset when you forget to call and tell me that you will be late for dinner.” Describe your emotional reactions to behaviors and events. Try not to attack the person or personality of your partner.
Learn The Art Of Negotiation – Every relationship we have with each other has a give and a take. When you have differences, find ways to come to an agreement together that you can both be satisfied with.
Drop Your Assumptions – Step back from judging or assuming that you know what the other is thinking or feeling. When we assume we know why someone said or did something, and then proceed with that as “fact”, it causes us to react to our assumptions rather than understand the facts of the situation.
Consider The Other Person’s Point Of View – Do not lose sight of the other person’s perspective – learn to value it. Listen and acknowledge the other person’s concerns, then talk about why you perceive the situation differently. Encourage your partner to explain their feelings and make assurances that you want to understand their perspective. Then make an honest attempt to listen and honor their perspective.
Create Win-Win Solutions – Sometimes when dealing with differences or conflict in a relationship, we can get ourselves locked into position of needing to be “right” and make the other person “wrong”. With your partner, forget “right” and “wrong”; the question should become whether or not what the two of you are doing is working in the relationship. The disagreement then is transformed into a problem that the two of you can work on together to improve. Be flexible; be open to new approaches in addressing conflict in the relationship.
Maintaining a healthy relationship takes time, energy, and work. With these guidelines to lead as an example, relationships can not only maintain, but also grow.