Breaking The Conflict Pattern

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Breaking The Conflict Pattern
Conflict expert, Greg Giesen, discusses how to get unstuck in repeating old patterns

Tom:    She started it. She disrespected me first. That’s not right.

Me:       I only bring it up because it seemed like you really cared for her.

Tom:    Never again. Burn me once, shame on you…burn me twice…shame on me.

Me:       Is shutting off communication a trigger for you?

Tom:    Yes. My mother would stop talking to me when she was upset. It drove me crazy.

Me:       What did you do then?

Tom:    I shut down too. We’d play this game of not talking to each other. It sometimes went on for days.

Me:       How would it end?

Tom:    Eventually one of us would slowly start talking to the other. In most cases it was her.

Me:       Why not you?

Tom:    Because I was mad at her for shutting down communication and was sort of punishing her by not talking to her.

Me:       Sounds similar to what you are doing with Nancy.

Tom:    I guess so.

Me:       So would it be fair to say that the “avoiding” style that you have become accustomed to over the years is what you tend to do in conflict?

Tom:    Not always. But it is probably what I do when I’m really upset with someone.

Me:       When you do that, doesn’t it prolong the conflict? You’ve already mentioned that shutting down communication is a trigger for you. So in essence, you extend the pain, extend the uncomfortableness, extend the awkwardness, and extend the conflict from being resolved.

Tom:    (being funny) Yeah, so what’s your point?

Me:       So would you say that the pattern of shutting down or avoiding communication around a conflicting issue has caused more harm than good in the long run?

Tom:    Probably.

Me:       Probably?

Tom:    Okay, yes it has Dr. Phil.

Me:       I’m just trying to help here. So what other options exist in those situations?

Tom:    I guess I could assert myself instead of always reacting and responding to the other person.

Me:       Ah, that would be a different approach. By always reacting to their response, you end up giving them all the power in the dynamic. Can you see that?

Tom:    I can now.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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