Conflict is inevitable in relationships. Whether it is with siblings, spouses, co-workers, employees, in-laws, or while dating, disagreements happen and conflicts arise. How we deal with these issues, however, is where the rubber meets the road. It is here that we must learn to deal with conflict in a way that maintains the relationship and moves it forward.
One of the best principles that I have found and try to hold on to when dealing with conflict is this:
“My response is my responsibility.”
That is a principle worth embracing. In fact, it is learning to respond to conflict – rather than reacting to it – that will make the biggest difference when the next conflict comes around. You can’t control how anyone else responds. But you can control how you do.
Here are a few ways that you can keep your relationships intact as you learn to deal with conflict by responding and not reacting.
How to Deal with Conflict
1. Say it don’t spray it.
When our feelings get hurt we tend to lash out at people and spray our hurt feelings all over the place. We bring up the past, make accusations, and speak in condescending tones. Obviously, none of this is very helpful. Reacting like this, in fact, only makes things worse. It is the beginning stage of what Emerson Eggerichs calls “The Crazy Cycle” in his must-read book, Love & Respect.
Instead, we need to learn to be more direct and say what we’re feeling without bringing these unconstructive things to the conversation. We must learn to talk in a way that is honest and fair without being accusatory or mean-spirited. Don’t hide how you feel or pretend like everything is okay. Say it clearly, but don’t spray your hurt out on others and make it worse.
2. Be the bigger person.
There are times when people are just flat out mean and difficult to be around. Maybe you’ve already done the first step and have handled it responsibly but it simply isn’t helping. What can you do then?
In this case, you simply have to deal with conflict by being the bigger, more mature person. You are only responsible for you and just because we learn to deal with conflict appropriately doesn’t mean it will change the circumstances or the people we deal with. Sometimes we just have to learn to love the unlovely and act with grace. Learn to pray for the other person who is hurting you and let God deal with their heart. In doing so, you maintain your dignity and have done all you can do to protect the relationship while not stooping to their level.
My response is my responsibility.
3. Really listen to what they’re saying.
A great leader and pastor that I follow (Jeff Henderson) has said that he regularly schedules reviews from his peers/employees to allow them to speak directly to what they see or hear about him and his leadership and job performance (or lack thereof). He allows them to critique his work and life. From there, he does something very wise that can help you to learn to deal with conflict as well. He listens. First, he invites the conversations. Then he listens to what has been said and gives it some time to marinate in his mind. In doing this, he allows some time and distance from the input he has received to internalize it all. He determines what he should accept as true (and then act on and make changes where needed) and what he feels was just an opinion of his peers.
This practice is one worth noting and embracing in your life as well. As my wife and I routinely tell our children, “Just because someone says something to you doesn’t make it true.” But it is important to invite conversations like this into our lives. Especially when there is conflict. Really listen to the person who is at odds with you and see what should be embraced and changed about you. This is your responsibility. If anything is said that is not true, then let it go. It’s not for you. But if it is, then you’ve just grown and become a better person and you may have earned the respect of the one you were just in conflict with as well.
What are some ways that you’ve learned to deal with conflict in your key relationships?
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