There are two components to every argument/conflict…the conflicting issue (the “what”) and the interpersonal dynamics during the conflict (the “how”). Guess which one is most important? That’s right, the “how.” Very simply, how you do conflict will directly impact the outcome of the conflict itself. If you are kind, respectful, constructively assertive and focused on win-win outcomes, you’ll get one kind of results.
CONFLICT IN RELATIONSHIPS
The fight or flight response is a natural response to danger. Our bodies are created to fight or flee when danger is upon us, such as being attacked by a mountain lion. When faced with this kind of danger, the stress hormones pour into our body, causing some blood to leave our brains and organs and go into our arms and legs. This is vital to us if we are actually being attacked by a mountain lion or a mugger. The problem is that this same response occurs when we become afraid in other situations, such as conflict with a partner.
I had a love-hate relationship with my old boss. The love part was my incredible respect for this former Olympic gold medalist turned CEO of one of the leading professional development companies in the world. He was one of those people who could make an audience laugh, cry, and get inspired—all at the same time. People always came up to me after one of Terry’s amazing speeches to say how lucky I was to work for this man. I’d smile and say, “I sure am”, knowing I was lying through my teeth.
“I need a volunteer…Greg?” Wow, that was more like telling than asking, I thought. “Sure Ron, I’d be glad to volunteer.” Ron asked me to stand in front of the group as he approached. I knew he picked me for a reason but wasn’t quite sure why…that is until his hands hit my chest with such force that I stumbled back a couple of steps. “What are you doing?” I yelled, trying to regain my composure.
…In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from above. Tighten the mask by pulling on the straps like this. If you are traveling with a child, place your mask on first before assisting them... Whenever I hear that part of the flight attendant’s pre-flight spiel, I always smile. I smile because my gut instinct would be to place the mask on a child first—had I not repetitively heard that directive. But I get the idea—save yourself so you can save others!
Assertiveness-Getting What You Want In the world today we are faced with many choices. We are all built with the instinct for fight or flight when faced with confrontation. But there is a third way--it is to speak up with an assertative voice about what we really want and need in life.
Lily and Don, both in their 40s, decided to get married after dating each other for a year. Lily's children were in college, while Don still had children coming to his house every other weekend. They discovered early in their marriage that it was one thing to date and quite another to merge their lives in the same house. Little things started to bother them that were not issues when they were living separately and just spending weekends together.
What does it mean to lovingly disengage from conflict? How do you keep your heart open and lovingly disengage when someone close to you is saying things about you that aren't true, or saying things about others that aren't true, or saying things about themselves or about life that aren't true? How do you lovingly disengage when someone close to you is blaming you, complaining, withdrawing from you, resisting you or attacking you?
(A conversation during a coaching session) Me: Tom, how are things going with Nancy? Tom: Well…not that great actually. Me: What do you mean? Last time we talked you were all excited about dating her. Tom: I know. But things have changed. She’s blown me off.
It could happen anywhere: shopping at the mall, a quick visit to the bank, or even a holiday event at your child’s school. One minute, you’re having a great time. The next, your emotions range from shock to bewilderment and you begin to panic. Yes, it’s one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of divorce – unexpectedly running into your ex-wife, especially during the holidays. No one tells you about these little nuances of divorce or how to deal with this situation – only the after math.
"What should I do if my partner won't go to counseling?" I often hear this from my clients. What are they really saying with this question? Generally, they are saying something like: "My unhappiness is coming from my partner's behavior," or "The problems in our relationship are my partners' fault," or "My partner needs to change for me to be okay."
It’s that time again—the beginning of the holiday season. I actually had another topic I was going to address this week in my blog but I succumbed to the pressure I felt (from whom or what, I’m not sure) to write about Thanksgiving. I guess it makes sense to do so as family gatherings provoke a lot of things for many people. For some, the annual get-togethers are something to look forward to—a means to connect and spend time with family. But for many, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a holiday season riddled with anxiety, trepidation, obligation, and conflict.
“When Eddie blames me, I react so fast, before I have a chance to get my adult self onboard. I’m explaining and defending before I can even take a breath,” Lori told me in one of our sessions. I knew exactly what she was talking about, as I had struggled with this same challenge for years.