“You’re such a nice girl, you hardly fall out with anyone” I’ve probably heard these words (or a variant) more times than I can count on both hands. And I believed them till I read a particular book which described the various ways people reacted in the face of conflict. I’d do a quick summary here so you can get the gist. In the first category were those who preferred to avoid any form of disagreement whatsoever, the next category were those who became aggressive and blew things out of proportion, and finally there were those who resorted to using manipulative tactics to get others to agree with them. It’s safe to say that I got the “nice girl” tag because I belonged to the first category.
It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that conflicts were almost inevitable in any relationship, as long as the people involved didn’t share the same fingerprint. At one point or the other, we will fail to agree with others, especially with those we love. This is not really a bad thing, because conflict does have some good in it. But it’s up to us to find that good and use it to build healthier relationships. If you are a pro at avoiding conflict (like me), you would certainly end up with a backlog of resentment and unnecessary hurts. On the other hand, if you’re a spit fire, you can hurt those closest to you with the words you say in the heat of the moment. Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation.
I’d like to add a disclaimer at this point: I’m not a relationship expert (neither do I plan to be). As a matter of fact, I think I still have a lot to learn when it comes to handling conflicts and this is probably why I’ve been having cold feet about putting up this post for more than a month. However, I find that only by sharing my thoughts can I remain accountable to the process of doing better and maybe help someone who may be in need of these tips. Although I had love relationships in mind while writing these tips, I feel they could also apply to other forms of relationship as well.
Don’t be in a hurry to apologise
There’s a popular saying that “the first to apologise is the bravest, yada yada yada”. While this statement has a ring of truth to it, I’m more concerned with when saying “sorry” is either used as a means to score cheap points or find a way around the problem without confronting it head on. As a rule of thumb, it does help to take a slight pause and ask yourself “what exactly am I sorry for?” This somehow forces you to take a deeper look at the cause of the disagreement and objectively analyse the issues at hand.
Schedule time to talk it out with your partner
A lot has been said on why it is important for partners to properly communicate in the face of a conflict. So, I’m really not going to overstress the point. However, I’ve discovered that there’s a big difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. To get out of this all too familiar trap of inaction, I often have to deliberately set aside a specific time to talk things over, preferably when I’m calmer and had had enough time to process my thoughts. And when I do fix a time, I try to show up.
I remember one time when I had some issues to sort out with my friend. We had already scheduled a time to talk about it and I couldn’t wait to reel out my mental list of grievances. On a whim, I talked to a mentor we both shared first and realised in the course of our discussion that I was the one who needed to apologise! Now, while I don’t subscribe to spilling your issues to every Tom, Dick and Harry all in the name of seeking counsel, I know from this experience that talking with my mentor helped me see things from a different perspective.
One extra tip I’ve learned is to keep my eyes on the big picture rather than go into panic whenever I’m faced with conflict in my relationship. Yes, I know there’s a problem and it’s probably threatening to tear us apart. But we are definitely going to work through it together and our relationship would be better for it. This positive approach has often kept me from sliding into despair while resolving conflict.
So, that’s a wrap, and I hope you enjoyed this. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Now over to you, do you have any tips that have proved helpful to you? Please share with us in the comments below.