Conflict can occur when opposing points of view come head to head. Although conflict is a normal part of our relationships and is perfectly healthy if handled well, it sometimes escalates and becomes destructive.
We often feel strong emotions when conflict begins to heat up. For many people, it is hard to keep a clear head while experiencing strong feelings. It's also much harder to listen to the other person's point of view. Some people aim to 'win at all costs'. Others want to retreat and hide, either physically and/or emotionally. It's normal for people to respond differently to conflict - it often has something to do with the way we are brought up. One common thread, however, is that our communication patterns when dealing with conflict can become destructive.
When conflict escalates to a certain point, it becomes almost impossible to consider the other person's point of view. This might be the time to bring in a third person, such as a counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner. You can call the Family Relationship Advice Line on 1800 050 321 or search for a local service that can assist on Family Relationships Online.
When dealing with conflict in your life, it's important to note the following points:
- Abuse - in any form - is never acceptable. We should never abuse other people, just as we should not accept abuse from other people.
- The responsibility of our own communication lies with us alone. No one 'makes' us say or do anything. We have a choice in how we react.
- Restricting another's options through either physical or emotional control is never acceptable. If this is what you are doing, or if this is being done to you, it might be time to talk to someone about it.
- Physical violence against anyone is destructive and illegal. If violence is a part of the conflict in your life it's important to seek help immediately.
Some questions worth asking yourself about the conflict in your life:
- Do the people involved feel heard or shut out?
- Is the conflict leading to compromise or a 'win-lose' situation?
- Is the communication respectful or destructive?
- Are you listening and responding, or just reacting?
- Does this communication have positive or negative results?
Some useful tips for handling conflict:
- Listen to the other person's point of view and make sure you understand it correctly.
- Respect the other person's point of view.
- Work out where you can compromise – what is the most important and least important thing to you both in relation to this particular situation.
- Try to keep your communication respectful. Don't use sarcasm or insults.
- Make 'I' statements such as: 'When you say that, I feel...' No one can argue with how you feel.
- If things are heating up, ask for time out. Come back to the discussion at a later time when both of you are calmer.
- If old patterns of communication aren't working, try new ones.
- Try to communicate through a different medium eg. letters or email.
#101 Copyright © Mensline Australia 2004 adapted with permission from original document ; author Terry Melvin