Conflict seems to have become a dirty word to most people. Many people spend hours of their day trying to avoid conflict, and sometimes they will not be true to themselves, just so that they can avoid it. This is unfortunate, because conflict is a necessary part o life. In many ways, conflict is how we truly get to know another person's character.
Conflicts between parents and children are not only going to happen, they are necessary to happen. Why? After all, parents generally do not want for their children to challenge them. For the most part, I would not disagree with that. However, the way that children learn how to be adults, is via their interactions with their parents. If children never learn how to "fight fair" or get along with others, while still being able to express themselves, they will be missing a big piece of what is needed for a healthy relationship! Respect is number one, even in the midst of conflict there should always be respect, and this is perhaps where parents struggle. It is important to encourage children to express their needs, thoughts, etc, as long as they do so respectfully. This is most likely to happen if parents are able to similarly be respectful. Often parents want respect in the midst of conflict, but they do not necessarily want to give respect to their children. Their expectation is that they get the respect first - but that is rare to happen. The most effective strategy for improving conflict resolution skills in your children is to tell them that they are able to disagree, as long as they do so respectfully, and then give them an opportunity, as them about something that you know they will disagree with - and practice!
Conflicts between intimate partners are similarly important. If two people say that they never argue, or disagree, then it is likely that someone is not being truthful in how they feel. Who remembers the movie Runaway Bride? In each of her relationships, she "likes" the way that her partner eats their eggs, and she does not know how she likes her eggs. Why? Because she does not want to argue about how the eggs are cooked. It seems silly, but often people do this. I am not saying we should never compromise, or that it is okay to fight all day every day. What I am saying is that it is vital that people are able to say how they actually feel, what they actually think, etc.
Friends and acquaintances will often also have conflict, and this will often lead to people leaving these friendships behind. I can not tell you how many people have told me that it is just "too much work" to try and get along with other people who disagree with them. What a sad world that must be! How boring it must be to have everyone just agree with us! The most important thing to remember with friends, loved ones, children, etc, is that all people have different opinions, and will often have LOTS of very strong opinions. The problem with strong opinions is that they often are treated as though they are truth. I certainly understand this. There are plenty of things that I fully believe in and feel as though they are truth, but I recognize that not all people agree with this. If we take personally the beliefs of others, particularly if they are not beliefs that we share, then we will likely struggle with many people around us.
In considering all individuals, think of the following three things when going in to a conflict, and see how it works:
1. Everyone deserves repsect, even if you do not like what they have to say.
2. If you take people's feelings and beliefs personally, you will struggle not to personally attack them, which immediately stops the conversation.
3. Think about what words you use when you are having conflict with others - are you using blaming or shaming words? If you do, then it is likely that you will struggle in your conflicts with others!
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