Addressing the elephant in the room

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As much as we might try to avoid it, conflict is a normal part of any personal relationship. However, it’s not conflict in and of itself that’s unhealthy but rather how we choose to address it. In order to maintain a healthy relationship, it’s therefore important to not only recognize the source of conflict but also to resolve it in constructive ways.
Common sources of conflict could include:
  • Finances, such as how money is being spent or saved.
  • Little annoyances which accumulate into bigger issues.
  • Shared responsibilities which appear as being one-sided, such as household chores.
  • Having unrealistic expectations.
  • General disagreements about important issues.
Once you’ve established the source of the conflict, you can work towards resolving it in these constructive ways:
  1. One of the first and most important steps is to simply talk about it. Work together by discussing possible solutions. Each person should have an opportunity to express their feelings and have their feelings validated. This also goes along with having unrealistic expectations, by expecting the other person to know how you feel without ever verbally expressing it.
  2. When discussing the conflict, it’s important to focus on the behavior and not the person’s character. Addressing certain unwanted behaviors is a lot more constructive than attacking someone’s character.
  3. One of the most difficult things to do during a discussion surrounding conflict is to take a step back. When things start to become confrontational it’s best to take a moment to collect your thoughts before saying something that might escalate the situation. This doesn’t mean running away to avoid the conflict but rather to take a breath and recover your emotions.
  4. Look at things from a different perspective. It’s clear that you and the other person feel differently about a certain topic or the conflict wouldn’t exist but take a moment to see things from their perspective by putting your own feelings aside. Which leads to the following point which highlights the importance of listening.
  5. Listen with an open mind and without interruption. This is not only critical for the other person to feel validated in their feelings but it might enlighten you to their perspective.
  6. Once you’ve identified the source of the conflict it’s important to stay on topic. This is especially important when the conflict exists due to an accumulation of annoyances and rather than focusing on the root of the problem you begin to list all of the superficial issues that even when resolved does not make the true conflict go away. An easy example includes household chores, such as washing the dishes, which isn’t the real problem but rather that you feel the other person isn’t contributing towards taking care of your home.

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