Vol No: 83,
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The Love Thing - Resolving conflicts in a relationship

By Eric Orji
E-mail: ayoadehat@yahoo.co.uk

CONFLICT can endanger relationships, but if handled well, it can also provide opportunities for growth, ultimately strengthening the bond between two people. Since relationship conflicts are inevitable, learning to deal with them (rather than avoiding them) is crucial.

Recognizing and managing conflict is also an essential part of building emotional intelligence, and nurturing relationships at home and work. Learn the skills you need for conflict resolution, and keep your relationships strong and growing.

1. Why is conflict resolution so important in relationships? 

Disagreements challenge relationships, and they occur in any intimate relationship.

Two people can't always have the same needs, opinions, and expectations. A relationship without challenge stops growing and becomes predictable, maybe even boring.

To preserve your relationships and help them grow, you need to be able to confront and resolve conflicts swiftly, without resorting to punishing, criticism, contempt, or defensiveness.

2. Which communication skills aid conflict resolution?

As infants, we experience an interactive relationship with our primary caregivers, usually our mothers. Within this relationship bond, each person becomes capable of understanding the nonverbal cues of the other, and tuning in to the other person's feelings. This becomes our model for communication in adulthood, and the nonverbal skills that are most effective for resolving conflict are those we developed as babies.

These communication skills include:

(i) The capacity to remain relaxed and focused in tense and intense situations:- If you don't know how to stay centered and in control of yourself, you may become emotionally overwhelmed in challenging situations.

(ii) The ability to experience intense emotions and recognize what matters most to you:- If you ignore or try to sedate feelings like anger, sadness, or fear, you will damage your ability to face and resolve differences. If you fear emotional intensity or insist on solutions being strictly rational, you'll rob yourself of the tools you need for resolving conflicts. These kinds of misunderstandings are also common in the workplace.
Insecurities pop up all the time, and may create wedges between people, or provide opportunities to build greater trust.

(iii) The ability to recognize and read nonverbal cues:- The most important information conveyed in relationships is often nonverbal. This ongoing nonverbal conversation includes eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, posture, touch, intensity, timing, and pace. In personal as well as work relationships, another person's emotional upset may have nothing to do with you, but it is a good idea to be observant and to ask the other person what's going on.

(iv) The capacity to be playful in tense and awkward situations:- You can avoid many confrontations and resolve differences with the use of humour and a reliance on mutual play. In the work setting, beginning the day with refreshments and playful informality often gets people off on the right track, too.

These communication skills help resolve conflict in relationships because they:

�� Make it possible to hear others - By not getting emotionally overwhelmed, you can accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication.

�� Make it possible for others to hear us --When you can express and control your emotions, you are able to communicate your needs without threatening or punishing others.

�� Aid in problem solving - By being calm, focused, and feeling your emotions, you have access to the full range of information about the conflict, which helps you have greater impact in discussing the problem and finding a long-lasting solution.

�� Offer positive alternatives to knee-jerk, disrespectful, or hurtful communication and behaviour - By avoiding punishing and degrading words and actions you allow people to reunite faster.

�� Build trust - When you resolve conflict and disagreement quickly and painlessly, you help mutual trust to flourish.

3. Childhood's effect on conflict resolution skills:- How do childhood experiences influence how we react to conflict? The success or failure of the attachment bond formed with our primary caregivers affects us as adults, because it creates expectations of how others will respond to us in the future. People who grow up believing their needs will be met are resilient and able to remain focused, relaxed, and creative in challenging situations. People who grow up without such expectations will fear conflict, and will not trust themselves in conflict situations.

4. Differing needs create relationship challenges:- How do differing needs create conflict in relationships? It almost goes without saying that different people require different things to make them feel comfortable and safe. Needs are a great deal more than whims, and people are usually very attached to them. Differing needs create some of the most severe challenges in home and work relationships. Needs play such a prominent role in your life because they:

�� Concern issues that continue to matter to you--they stay with you over time.

�� Support survival and wellbeing-- they can't be postponed indefinitely without dire consequences.

�� Continue to fester if ignored--they will turn up unexpectedly at inappropriate times, or in connection with other issues.

�� Create experiences that you feel in your body--needs are attached to inescapable sensations and create a serious source of stress if ignored.

�� Carry an emotional charge- -needs hold a place of prominence in your life and stick with you, whether you like it or not.

5. Recognizing and resolving conflicting needs:- What abilities help us recognize and resolve conflicting needs? The same skills that help you communicate with other people also help you communicate with yourself. The ability to manage stress, and to fearlessly experience and express emotions, allows you to know what you need as well as what others need. These communication skills develop as a result of the secure attachment bond you had as an infant. They help you safely navigate conflict created by opposing needs. Successful problem resolution depends on the ability to:

�� manage stress--remaining alert and calm

�� be aware of the emotions that signal needs

�� pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of others

�� be aware and respectful of differences In personal relationships, a lack of understanding about differing needs can result in distance, arguments, and break-ups. In workplace conflicts, differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes. When you can recognize the legitimacy of conflicting needs and become willing to examine them in an environment of compassionate understanding, it opens pathways to creative problem solving, team building, and improved relationships.


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