I hate arguing. It really is the pits. Throughout my timid life I’ve settled most of life’s conflicts by keeping my peace, ducking my head and resolving to get over whatever irked me.
Thankfully, living 24/7 with a loving, albeit stubborn, man requires me to grow-up and mature in the conflict resolution arena.
So, here are my bits of advice for resolving conflict thoroughly and lovingly. Take whatever you can from my meager words; I’m still learning.
- Relationships = Opportunity for Bitterness
Knowing that you can become bitter is the first step in choosing not to. No matter the size of the conflict (think “she keeps clanging her spoon in the cereal bowl” small to “we can’t agree on family size” big) there will be opportunities for you as an individual to grow angry, bitter and hurt over the situation. I think acknowledging that we can or will be hurt is a step worth knowing because only then can you move onto step two …
2. Opportunity for Bitterness = Opportunity for Empathy
When we’re faced with conflict I’ve discovered that a major step toward reconciliation is being empathetic. Empathy, according to the Webster Dictionary, means “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated.”
In other words, to put yourself the other person’s moccasins. In the long-term scheme of things it doesn’t really matter how I feel about so-and-so’s irritating complaint. Instead of belittling their feelings or opinion it is more useful to put myself in their shoes (even if they seem ridiculous). Only when we decide to see their complaint from their eyes will we be ready for step 3.
3. Empathy = Chance for Resolution
Real, life-giving reconciliation involves taking responsibility for our actions and the impact they had (even when we did not intend for the impact to occur). To illustrate I’ll tattle on myself and my struggle with punctuality (it’s a family curse). Let’s say I’ve worked 15 minutes later then planned finishing an awesome library display and, therefore, am 15 minutes late picking up D from his 10 hour shift.
Most likely my Man will be a little irate. From experience the following situations become possible (okay, all of these scenarios have happened). I could:
A) Offer a myriad of excuses instead of a genuine “I’m sorry for being irresponsible and making you wait for my lack of planning.” Excuses will most likely look like “Well, you’ve been late picking me up before so we’re even …”
B) Become irritated with my Man’s lack of patience and grow impatient with his irritation. Situations like this most likely end up with a cold, silent ride home. :/
C) Take responsibility for not being punctual but accuse D of also falling short of true patience and understanding.
D) Take responsibility for not being punctual and for causing feelings of frustration in a normally calm, patient man who is simply ready to take his boots off and eat dinner at the agreed upon time. Putting myself in my Man’s shoes (being empathetic) will allow me to be patient with his impatience and grace-filled with his momentary grumpiness. Instead of a cold ride home there will be open communication and trust will continue to be built between two sinners who need each other more than they know.
4) Resolution = Growing in Individual Maturity and Opportunity for Relationship Growth
When we choose to be empathetic, responsible and grace-filled we choose both individual and relationship growth. We choose opportunities to develop deeper bonds, richer trust and increased wisdom. We love our neighbor as ourselves and honor our relationships.
Because it’s like my mom always said, “You can only be responsible for yourself.”
And that my friend is a beautiful thing.
Are you an avoider, an arguer or an avid resolution maker? How have you discovered to peacefully and fully resolve conflict (both big and small)? Share your ideas with us … I’d love to know!
With lots of love and coffee,