Do you often find yourself holding in your anger at someone to avoid a conflict? Perhaps you’ve held in your anger for so long that you eventually erupt and lash out at this person.
As you might surmise, this is not a good way to resolve a conflict. It damages your emotional and physical well-being by creating stress, and it can destroy a relationship. So why do we do this in the first place?
One reason is you might feel that your anger will get out of control if you say something. But unfortunately, in that case, your resentment simmers in the background during your interactions with this person. This can create even more tension and prolong the conflict.
I believe we’re often raised without any clue how to constructively resolve conflict while strengthening our relationships at home and work. While conflict resolution is a crucial life skill, it’s generally not taught in school. And, unless you’re very fortunate, you might not have learned from your parents.
If we want our most important relationships to flourish, there needs to be mutual trust and respect. So, if we want others to trust and respect us, we have to trust and respect them.
We disrespect others when we disregard or minimize their feelings or opinions, or if we always try to get our own way. And the other person will feel hurt and resentful. Likewise, we disrespect ourselves if we’re always giving in just to avoid conflict. That sends a message to the other person that it is acceptable to act insensitively to your needs.
So, what is the key to productively resolving conflict and strengthening our most important relationships? First of all, the human brain is hard-wired to create a “fight-flight-freeze” reaction whenever we feel attacked or threatened. And the reasoning part of the brain simply shuts down.
When we’re fired up, our default is to assume we have to choose between getting results and keeping the relationship. But, according to the best-selling book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, as you feel that rush to fight or flee, pause and notice your motives at that moment. For instance, are you trying to win or prove you’re right?
Then, get clear on what you really want by asking “what do I want for myself, the other person, and the relationship?” For example, “I can see I’m pushing to prove my idea is better and I should win. What I really want is to come to an agreement that works for both of us.” Or “what I really want is to express my real concerns and not come across as too demanding.”
Then, according to the authors of Crucial Conversations, ask “how would I behave if this were what I really wanted?” In other words, choose your words or take action to achieve what it is you really want.
According to Crucial Conversations:
When you ask that question, you discover you can share your concerns, listen sincerely to the other person’s concerns, and build the relationship – all at the same time. And the results can be life-changing.
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