Awareness and Conscious Choices for Conflict Management and Relationship Building
“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.”
Franklin D Roosevelt
"Courage means to keep working a relationship, to continue seeking solutions to difficult problems, and to stay focused during stressful periods."
It’s all about choices! When it comes to relationships you cannot, not choose. Anything you do, or don't do, is a choice. You can choose to be proactive and address problems, or you can choose to avoid.. You can choose to stay actively involved in the maintenance of the relationship, or you can trust that “love is all you need.”. You can choose to learn how relationships work - or don't work. You can choose to enter, or leave relationships. You can choose to be kind and nurturing, or you can choose to be cold and indifferent. You can choose to be defensive, and self- protective, or you can choose to be open and willing to learn. You can choose to stay calm and manage your emotions, or give your emotions free reign and “let it all hang out.” You can choose to listen attentively, or listen reactively. You can choose to be respectful, or act with contempt. You can choose empathy, or choose not to be willing to understand.
You can choose to not make choices at all, choosing to do nothing, letting the relationship play out as it will. This is probably the most damaging choice, and a choice many make without even being aware it's a choice - but it is. You cannot, not choose!
There are no choices more crucial to our well- being. How we handle relationships determines to a large extent our stress and "dis-ease, or our joy and satisfaction with our lives.
We ran across the following song lyrics. Unfortunately, we were unable to find out the name of the artist so that we can give them proper credit. The song is about "The Communication Loop" and how easy it is to have miscommunication layered upon miscommunication resulting in a couple who started out very much in love tearing their relationship apart and not knowing how to fix it. The song:
Your Meanings (A song, author unknown)
You put your meanings in my words
Till my words don't mean what they say
I don't mean you hear just what you want to hear
No, you hear what you think I would say
And when some of your meanings hurt you
Then you get angry at me
And I put my meaning in your bitter tears
And I hate you for hurting at me
But I only wanted you to know me
To see me and hear me as I feel me inside
Laughing easy, crying hard, seldom certain,
always wishing we could fly
But you put your meaning in my words
While my meanings stumble and fall
Our lips are still moving, there is sound in the air
But I don't think we’re talking at all
Seem familiar? You’ve probably been there. In fact, you might find yourself in this position frequently, quite perplexed as to how you got there, or how to get back to where you want to be.
This song typifies the interactions of most of the couples we work with, but this sort of miscommunication doesn't apply only to couples. We have conflict with our parents, our siblings, our friends, our co-workers, our boss, and virtually everyone else in our lives. In fact, conflict is inevitable. You simply can't have an ongoing relationship with anyone without differences sooner or later becoming apparent, differences that often result in conflict.
Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing but all too often it is either destructively expressed, or hidden and suppressed causing damage to self. Sometimes people stuff and stack their emotions until some event triggers a volcanic eruption, followed by a guilt and fear driven return to once again pushing emotions down and keeping them contained until the next eruption. We call this the “Mount Saint Helens Syndrome.”
For many, it may seem that conflicts “just happen,” and it may seems quite obvious that the fault lies with the other person’s poor grasp on reality (your reality of course). Still, how you handle conflict is a choice. The problem is that we are sometimes unaware of having choices, and unaware of our power to make powerful changes.
Relationships are vital to our well-being. When our relationships are deeply satisfying and safe, we're doing well. When relationships are not going well, we are prone to high levels of anxiety and depression. Relationship difficulties are perhaps the greatest sources of stress in our lives. Our work on managing stress, anxiety, and depression would not be complete without addressing stress stemming from relationships.
Skillful handling of relationship conflict can go a long way toward reducing stress – and even more importantly, achieving a solid sense of well-being, and satisfaction with life. All you need is mindful awareness, choice, and mindful action.
We have over 30 years of experience working with couples, families, and workplace relationships, as well as decades teaching relationship therapy to graduate psychology students. We are serious about building strong, healthy, and enduring relationships.
Send an email to us for your free copy of our relationship e-manual "Intentional Relating."