Archive for the ‘Growing’ Category

Will you be my Conflictine?

Here’s a short, imperfect guide for dealing with interpersonal conflict. It’s based on my own experience, so it may look like it doesn’t apply to you. Still, for conflicts with people you care about or at least people you want to keep a good relationship with, it’s usually a good approach. Admittedly, it does require some inner strength and focus on cooperative problem solving – hey, I said “good”, not “easy”!

1. Understand

The first step in managing the conflict is understanding what is really going on. Maybe this seems oh-so-clear from the first impulse, but if you pay more attention and give it more thought, you may find that it’s actually just a small misunderstanding. Or maybe the other is just projecting on you some problems that have nothing to do with you, so the attack is not actually meant for you. Many other answers you might find, if you just look for them.

2. Validate

Part of the understanding – a very important part! – refers to the subjective experience of the other person involved in the conflict. How do they interpret what’s happening? What are they feeling? Leave your own judging apart for a while and just use your curiosity to see through the other’s eyes. As you get more and more information, convey your interpretation of it, to check if it matches their own interpretation, and also to show your interest and care for them. You might not agree with their view, but validation is not about agreeing. It’s about accepting that two different people may see the same situation differently and willing to step into the other’s shoes for a while.

3. Take responsibility

Admit to yourself your own contribution to the turn of the situation. Maybe you had no mean intentions, maybe your actions are perfectly justifiable in the given circumstances. Anyway, it takes two to tango and at least two to have an interpersonal conflict, and entering conflicts is usually not a reason for shame; it’s getting stuck in them that’s truly damaging. Telling yourself “this is what I’ve done to get here” is the first step for accepting responsibility for your actions.

After this, go ahead and express to the other that you’re aware of your contribution to the situation. Apologize if you find it’s the case, maybe even ask what you can do to make up for it. Sometimes just saying “I understand how my words triggered you to get angry” will be enough.

If all you did to get into the conflict was just be there, then… think again! :) Even if you didn’t start it, it doesn’t mean it’s all the deed of the other person. If you haven’t given a response to a provocation from the other, then how is there a conflict between the both of you?

And what if you really haven’t fostered the conflict, but the other person keeps inviting you into it? Well, you’re still responsible for what you do from now on.

4. Self disclose

Voice your own emotions and thoughts that resulted from the actions of the other. If you want anything from them in order to be able to leave the conflict behind, ask for it. Maybe you want an apology, an explanation, commitment for certain future action, or a hug – whatever it is, it’s your job to ask, not their job to read your mind.

And this is it! The four steps are not necessarily so separated or in this specific order. You may give some validation, ask for some, then validate some more, take responsibility for a small thing, then ask for the other’s admission of their own contribution and so on. However, if you can genuinely give (understanding, validation, compensation) before asking, I’d say your chances of really solving the conflict are the highest you can get; just don’t neglect to take care of your own needs, too!

If you tend to avoid conflicts, here’s a little motivation for you to change: all the small conflicts you keep shoving under the carpet will pile on each other, until one day they will explode into a big conflict. And without the practice of solving the small ones, dealing with this big one will be even more difficult. Ready to start practicing now? :)


Rounding corners

been rounding my corners all through,
but then another sharp one grew -
cause i’d been rounding them for you.
so now i’m starting all anew.