Thursday, December 16, 2010

Resolving Conflict Well

Recently I had a conflict with someone, and when we sat down to talk it out and come to a place of resolution, I was amazed at how well the conflict resolution process can go when both people are committed to it. I hate having tension hang in the air in my relationships, but sometimes I make a move to discuss the issue and the other person isn't ready or interested in talking about it.

When that happens, the conflict stays festering between you, and every other interaction becomes built on that foundation. I like the air clean, but not everyone does, and I am slowly learning to respect that. But when both people are willing to talk it through, identifying where the misunderstandings and poor communication occurred, the problems can be fixed, and the relationship can go on from there on solid footing.

I am learning not to make peace at all costs any more. I prefer peace to hostility, but I spent a lot of time as a child and young adult traveling the bulk of the distance to meet the other person, and taking on more than my fair share of the blame in order to restore the relationship. Now I'm practicing apologizing for my part, and waiting for the other person to take responsibility for theirs. It doesn't always work out the way I'd like, but when it is successful, it's a beautiful picture of how a healthy relationship can function.

It's not easy to know how to handle different conflicts, because some people will want to resolve it peacefully and with mutually beneficial results, and others will prefer to haul out their large broom and sweep it under their gigantic carpet. I think we have to manage each situation as it arises, doing our best to say sorry and forgive, and hope that the other person will meet us partway. When they don't, we have choices to make about how we handle our side.

I used to run in and take the lion's share of the blame, just to melt the ice and get the other person speaking to me again. I don't see that as a healthy way to manage conflict anymore, and the process of changing this about myself has been painful and difficult, but I think down the road I will see rewards from this change. I know that it's deeply satisfying to resolve conflict well, but I also know that I can't control other people's responses to relationship stress. I am only responsible for myself in a conflict; the other person is on their own.

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