Did you know that conflict is a perfectly normal part of being in relationship? Furthermore, at least 69% of our conflicts are perpetual. That means that they never go away and a recycle over and over during the life of the relationship. This applies to not only to intimate relationships with spouses and family members as well as professional relationships and teams!
Perpetual problems stem from us trying to “change” one another and this is where we get into trouble. When try to change each other we attempt to have someone compromise their core values. In essence we threaten each other’s identity. When we feel our core values are being threatened we automatically go into a state of defensiveness. It’s a survival instinct and perfectly natural. There are parts of us that we simply are not willing to compromise for anyone or anything and nor should we. However, perpetually arguing about it and experiencing the triggering and emotional flooding that comes with unskillful conflict is not healthy for anybody. It takes a toll on our body and soul. So, what do about this? Dr. John Gottmann recommends we focus on our “solve-able problems” and instead of changing one another we focus on accepting each other. It sounds simple, however, it takes great commitment to improve our relationships with each other. We have to be willing to really hang in there to find new ways to grow together.
The workplace offers a great opportunity to practice skillful conflict and develop a culture that values diversity. We have such a wide cross-section of folks working together in our communities with different worldviews and they don’t often agree on some core things. Most often what I witness are folks making each other wrong, building alliances with those who agree with them and working at weeding out those folks who are different. This creates a hostile and negative environment. I think that when we feel our values are threatened we respond by becoming defensive and we do all sorts of unskillful behaviors to try and protect our identity. There is a different way and better way in fact. I’ve outlined some steps below that are helpful….
- Know your core values and teach other people what is important to you;
- Avoid becoming defensive, using blame and contempt or stonewalling;
- Work on delivery of your message to others so that they can hear it; soften your approach;
- Be willing to be influenced…stay open and be willing to change your mind;
- Focus on solve-able problems…work on the things that can be changed, for instance, circumstances as opposed to changing the person;
- Find common ground…get clear about what you do agree on and why it’s important that you are able to work things out; and
- Build positivity and develop a fondness for each other’s differences; acknowledgements are a fantastic way to build positivity.
Remember, conflict is normal and should not be avoided as this leads to repressed emotions that can erupt. Further, how we approach conflict is more important that anything so keep the conflict as clean as possible. The more we experience a positive outcome where conflict is concerned the more courageous we become in our relationships. The benefit is the capacity to grow together!