Jan Dennison

Breathe Deeply And Think Clearly

Feb 15, 2015

Writing about conflict

Conflict is very difficult for me, and something I have worked hard on in the past to grow and develop through. As kids, my siblings and I were never taught good conflict resolution skills, to put it mildly. As a result, there was a learning curve for me for dealing with conflict in constructive and temperate ways.

I've been stuck with writer's block thinking of a specific instance for too long for this post, so I'm just going to write about conflict in general. Many sources of conflict for me have come from poor communication, crossed wires, and jumping to be defensive. Almost always, the greatest emotion underlying anger I felt was frustration - whether I felt I wasn't being heard, or, honestly, that things weren't going the way I wanted. Often, I find myself wanting to defend myself, because I felt someone wasn't valuing my input, or taking my feelings into consideration.

As a child who thought that normal conflict resolution meant yelling and slamming doors, active resolution took a long time to learn. Once I entered my adult years, and realized my failings, I have worked towards reprogramming my reactions. Now when I recognize a conflict has come up, I stop myself and take deep breaths. I push the pure emotion out of me and look at it for the underlying causes. I evaluate what I am trying to communicate, and what, specifically, is frustrating me about the conflict. Sometimes I do still need to step away, if the conflict is particularly intense, and collect myself in a quiet space. I'm not always successful, but I do continually try.

Learning new conflict resolution skills is an ongoing process. I've gotten really great advice from friends that I work to keep in mind and practice. For example, during conflict, give the benefit of the doubt, or, assume that I am the one misunderstanding, and ask for clarification. Being generous and charitable in our dealings with others, rather than jumping to defend ourselves, has been the most effective way for me to resolve conflict not only in a way that diffuses the situation, but builds bridges for even better communication going forward.