Does Conflict Drain You?

Like a slow, steady leak, unresolved conflict can lead us to circle the drain faster than expected. And make no mistake, unresolved conflict can create a huge barrier in our creative lives. Not that all tensions have to be resolved, but…

Here on Planet Earth, conflict is a part of life. Try as we may, we can’t duck, dodge or avoid it for too long. Avoiding conflict creates relational and emotional erosion that, left unchecked, only creates greater problems in the future.

If conflict drains you, you’re not alone…

How you handle conflict makes all the difference in your marriage, parenting, friendships, family and work relationships.

The problem is most people don’t handle conflict very well. And all of us would benefit from being a bit more creative with our conflict resolution skills. North Virginia Community College Professor Nan Peck (Click here for more info) offers some common ways people handle conflict:

Withdraw: No Way: Avoid the conflict by pretending that it doesn’t exist, minimize the differences between you, or refrain from engaging in what seems to be an inevitable argument. Examples of withdrawing include stonewalling, pretending that there is nothing wrong, and shutting down. Withdrawing requires no courage and no consideration for your partner.

Give In: Your Way: Accommodate your partner by accepting her/his point of view or suggestion. Make peace to get past this sticking point. Allow the other to have his/her way. Be gracious and roll with the punches. Giving in requires high cooperation and low courage. Over time, it’s likely that the accommodator becomes resentful of the other party.

Stand Your Ground: My Way: Compete with the other party and ensure that you win the argument. Argue your point and do not concede any points. Fight to the finish if you must. Competitve approaches to conflict yield quick short term gains but the long term effects are great. Standing your ground requires courage but little consideration. You may win the battle, but you’re likely to lose the relationship.

Compromise: Half Way: Find a middle ground in which you both give up some ground to allow both parties to be partially satisfied. Negotiate and give in on small points in other to win the bigger battle. Looking for a common ground requires both courage and consideration. This seems good unless compromisers use guile and passive aggressive tactics to out-fox the other party.

Collaborate: Our Way: Talk and listen to the other party. Discuss and clarify your goals and areas of agreement. Ensure that other parties understand and acknowledge each other’s positions. Consider ways to resolve the problem without any concessions. Think “outside the box.” Collaboration requires great courage as well as much consideration. Collaborators are generally interpersonally intelligent and are well respected and admired.

In working with a lot of married couples over the years, I’ve often said, “Conflict will eventually lead to great breakdowns or new breakthroughs.” How we resolve conflict in a way that honors people and honors God will determine which path we travel down…down the drain or down the road to find refreshing new springs to enjoy with one another.

Here’s a couple great books I highly recommend by Dr. John Gottman…lots of helpful information for marriage and how we teach our kids to communicate and handle conflict.

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

Questions: In what ways does conflict drain you? What is your conflict resolution style? Think of a good way and a negative way you’ve handled relationship conflict in the past…what did you learn?

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