How often are we in conflict with someone? Conflict can often bring up a broad range of emotions like fear and anger and even the word is often used to describe war or the clashing of opposed interests.
Some conflict is a normal part of any healthy relationship, after all we cannot expect two people to completely agree on the same thing all the time. The saying “let us agree to disagree” is not always as simple as it sounds as often conflict is either avoided or not managed in a healthy way. This often can cause a great deal of harm and emotional pain in our relationships bought about by negative behaviors and feelings such as resentment, manipulation, abuse and/or control.
We can experience conflict within our personal relationships, family, workplace, schools or even within ourselves. I think in times of change, uncertainty and being out of our comfort zone (such as the effects of COVID-19) conflict can be exacerbated. Often what is a simple disagreement or misunderstanding can turn into a full-blown conflict as one or both parties perceive it as a threat or personal attack (whether real or not). So, it’s important that we understand what causes and exacerbates conflict as this can depend on a whole range of factors:
- Perception: This is influenced by our life experiences, culture, values and beliefs. Do we respond to conflict based on our individual perception or an objective view of the facts?
- Emotions: If we are not aware of our emotions or have difficulty managing them in times of stress, trying to resolve conflict can be more difficult.
- Avoidance: Conflict continues to fester when not dealt with. Putting our head in the sand is one unhelpful coping strategy, self-medication (drinking more, working harder, talking less) is another.
- Misunderstanding: A lack of understanding about what others need or value can result in individuals not feeling heard or appreciated creating arguments and distance in relationships.
- Communication breakdown: This is worthy of another article in itself, but effective communication (both hearing and being heard) is vital for conflict resolution. Understanding the differences in male vs female communication styles is also important (not right or wrong but different!) When we are not coping in any area of our life, failure to communicate how we feel is one of our biggest mistakes. Remember communication is the start to the problem-solving process!
So how do we react or respond to conflict? Several well-known self-help websites talk about a healthy response to conflict which includes:
- Staying calm, non-defensive and being respectful.
- Empathize with the other person’s viewpoint (Empathy = the ability to identify, understand and share the feelings of another).
- Seek compromise and not hold a grudge or seek to punish the other person.
- Forgive and forget (resentment is letting someone else live rent free in your head).
- Facing conflict and talking through issues is a chance for personal and relationship growth (not a point of difference about winning or losing).
It’s important to understand that we are all unique individuals and the personal, environmental and lifestyle factors affecting our ability to cope with conflict are vast. However, with half of marriages ending in separation/divorce; bullying and harassment being major issues in schools/workplace; and the push for individualism outweighing collectivist values have we lost sight of one important attribute … having a little more Empathy for one another?
Terry and the Team
The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401
Phone: 08 9690 2277