How To Have Healthy Conflict That Creates More Connection
Maybe you wouldn’t even call what you’re experiencing “conflict” per say, perhaps conflict feels like too strong a word. I don’t care if you label it “conflict” or something else, what I’m speaking to in this article is a sense of inner tension: knowing that something is bothering you and keeping you from the depth of relating that you crave, and you want to be able to express it to the other person.
You want to express something to come to a resolution, and you want to do that in such a way that it actually facilitates and deepens connection.
What you really want is to be able to be seen, heard, understood, and to do the same for the other person.
So many times I hear from my clients that these conversations don’t go as they would have liked.
They stuffed their feelings for so long, they ended up exploding.
The other person ends up being defensive, and the connection they were hoping for didn’t happen.
Tensions escalated instead of diffused, and neither party felt seen or heard.
Instead of bridging the gap, their differences seem magnified.
When we have experiences like this with bringing something that’s important to us forward, it can then make us more weary to bring something forward again.
When your track record with expressing your inner world to another hasn’t facilitated the connection you crave, you can end up feeling like you’re in a lose-lose situation:
When you don’t express what’s going on inside you to the other person, you can’t be seen, known, or understood and your connection diminishes.
And if you’ve tried to express yourself and it hasn’t gone well, connection can diminish as well.
So how can you actually set yourself up for success in conflict? How can you actually achieve the increased connection and understanding that you’re really desiring?
5 Steps For Healthy Conflict That Creates More Connection:
Make it a practice to bring deeper awareness around your feelings in your relationships. What are they attempting to communicate to you? Your feelings and emotions are signals that are in constant communication with us, should we choose to listen.
This takes practice because we have often been taught to tune ourselves out and tune into others almost exclusively. Often when we have been in that habit, we only become aware of our feelings and emotions when they have been building for quite some time, and we find ourselves exploding out of nowhere!
What are your feelings telling you? Has a boundary been crossed? Is something not sitting well with you that you would like to address? Just get curious and see if you can deepen your awareness.
The timing of what you’re bringing up is important. Bringing it up at the right time can help your needs to be met, or it can make it more difficult.
There are a few things to consider here:
What is your current capacity (how are you feeling physically, emotionally, do you have time for a conversation, etc.)
What is the other person’s current capacity? (Do you know that they have had a hard day, or do they seem open, present, and available?)
Stuffing your emotions can lead to exploding later. If it isn’t a good time to have a conversation presently, you can allow your emotions to run through you and express (for example, by putting on some music that matches your emotion and moving the emotion by moving your body) until it is an appropriate time to have the conversation. This will help prevent projection, blame, and exploding.
What timing would facilitate the outcome that you most desire?
3. Clarity On The Real Issue You’re Bringing Forward
Before you have a conversation with the person, take some time to get clear on what the REAL issue is underneath some potential surface level issues.
When we spend time on surface level issues, we go around and around with no real resolution possible, and nothing changes because there is no way for your real need to get met.
For example, maybe the surface level issue is that you feel so frustrated by the dishes being left in the sink.
When you actually ask yourself why that bothers you, maybe you realize it’s because your Mom always had to do everything in the house, and the dishes being left in the sink reminds you of that and makes you feel like you are having to fill that same role. The real issue underneath the dishes in the sink is feeling that you aren’t appreciated and your time isn’t respected.
When you are clear on what the real issue is and you can bring that forward without blame or projection, disentangled from past Stories, your conversation will be much more productive in facilitating understanding and connection.
4. Validate Their Perspective.
There is always more than one perspective.
Remember that everyone’s unique past life experiences forms the lens through which they are viewing the current circumstance.
Put yourself in their shoes. Having empathy and being able to see their perspective doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them or think they are right; it simply means that you are attempting to understand another’s perspective, which is the basis of all relating.
Truly validating their perspective helps them open to your perspective as well. Often they will be less defensive and feel less of a need to prove themselves “right” since they will feel more seen and understood.
5. Use “I Feel” Statements
When you are communicating your perspective and internal world, using “I feel” statements, as trite as they may seem, work.
They work because when we use “I feel” statements, we are expressing how something is making us feel and how it is affecting us rather than focusing on the other person or their behavior, which can cross over into projection and blame very quickly.
When we use “I feel” statements we are being vulnerable and open. We are expressing our internal world in order for the other person to know us and understand us better.
Be careful to not simply tack “I feel” statements to statements that are judgement-based or “you should” or “you shouldn’t” statements. Putting “I feel” in front of these statements doesn’t change them!
When you use “I feel” statements, you are effectively taking self-responsibility of your feelings and emotions, and inviting the other person to do the same in return.
Being able to express ourselves in our relationships is the path to authentic connection and relating that we all crave. Conflict isn’t the enemy; in fact, when we learn how to handle conflict in relationships in a healthy way, it can deepen our connection.
These 5 steps can be used in ANY and ALL relationships: with partners, family, friends, or co-workers.
I’d love to hear from you: are there any of these 5 steps that are the most difficult for you? Are there any of these 5 steps that you’d like to have me explore more deeply with you? Feel free to comment below!
I always adore hearing from you.
Cheers to healthy conflict,