Unlike what the childhood rhyme would suggest, words can AND do cause considerable pain.
can be both wonderful and debilitating sensations,often simultaneously.
As Courtney Love so eloquently put it, “I love so much I hate.” Because
emotions like psychoactive substances can become overwhelming to one’s
being (mentally, physically and spiritually), developing
self-control,learning coping strategies and importantly, mature conflict
resolution is essential to one’s very survival. In fact, as a course in
criminology I once took taught me, the number one type of homicide is
that which occurs between two males, 18-24, fighting over the same
female mate. Yes…love can kill.
In any argument, you will find yourself in one of two roles: that
of the instigator or that of the retaliator. While both terms conjure
up negative connotations, it’s important to understand that conflict in
itself is NOT necessarily a bad thing. Rather, it’s how you deal with it
that determines whether the outcome is positive or negative. In fact,
many psychologists argue that conflict can be the breeding ground for
both self and relationship growth.For example, though initiating
emotional discussions is not anyone’s particular cup of tea, dealing
with issues when they occur (as opposed to bottling up one’s feelings)
is a more mature and healthy response in that it prevents resentment,
which can lead to subconscious attempts to sabotage the offender,from
building up. Likewise, while it may not be a pleasant experience to hear
someone out in terms of how you’ve hurt or offended them (it bruises
one’s ego after all), allowing yourself to get defensive and failing to
validate the other party’s feelings only ever makes small conflicts
turn into maelstroms. With this said, if you’ve got to tango, you need
to learn the moves. In any conflict:
1) It’s important to talk openly, calmly and honestly:
you don’t feel comfortable in expressing yourself candidly, you may
want to contemplate what the relationship in question actually means to
you. Those who love, respect and value you will accept you,warts and
all. That’s their job as is yours to reciprocate. Accordingly, if you’ve
done something stupid, wrong, hurtful, whathaveyou, be mature and own
up to it. Accepting responsibility for your actions is one of the first
major steps to growing up.
2) To avoid defensive reactions which bar communications, learn to preface your complaints with statements of care:
example, before launching into how the offender has hurt you, say
something gentle along the following lines: “I’d really like us to be
able to have an open and mature relationship with each other so that we
can better understand each other’s perspectives. With that said, I’d
like to speak with you about what happened the other day. I’m not sure
if you’re aware, but (this)and (this action) really hurt my feelings.”
know this may seem like a bunch of gobbly-goop, but honestly, just
making a few statements such as those above before participating in a
full-on emotional discourse can save you from getting into a further
conflict about the argument itself! There are a few important aspects of
the above preface worth mentioning:
a) the emphasis
on what you desire in your relationship with the other person. By
stating outright how much you value the other person, their perspective
and what ideally you’d like to work toward with them relationship-wise,
it minimizes the chance of a defensive reaction by reaffirming your
words are coming from a place of care and a desire to fix issues, rather
than create them.
b) the emphasis on ‘speaking with’
the individual, rather than ‘speaking’ to them. Subtle changes in word
phrasing can result in dramatic effects, both for the better or worst.
By using the expression “speak with” in this context rather than “to
speak to”, it illustrates your desire for cooperative
non-confrontational discussion as opposed to lecturing or belittling
which again, for obvious reasons, will minimize the chance of a
c) the emphasis on owning your
feelings. Again, though subtle, stating that you felt hurt (ie: an ‘I
statement’)as opposed to “YOU HURT ME” (ie: a ‘You Statement’) makes a
world of difference in terms of the reaction it’ll merit. By owning your
feelings in discussions,it allows you to explain your point-of-view,
while at the same time compelling the offender to validate your feelings
by demonstrating empathy.
there’s a chance things will get heated, set ground rules for discussion
such as allotting each speaker a time limit to express their concerns,
while making it clear that personal attacks will not be tolerated.
one or both parties begins to “brickwall” (ie: gets so emotional that
there’s no logic in their words and they’re effectively only spewing
fire from a defensive stance), it may be best to leave the “scene of the
crime” until you’ve both had a chance to cool down. Note however it’s
important to not leave the discussion hanging in limbo for too long as
that too could breed further problems.
4) Avoid both saying and accepting the “I’m Fine” statement:
a word, it’s b.s. If there’s a distinct frustration,anger, annoyance
etc. in someone’s tone of voice and they tell you “they’re fine”, don’t
buy it. That’s not license to poke and prod them however as this will
likely only piss them off further. A more successful approach would be
stating something along the lines of, “I don’t wish to irritate you, but
it seems to me there is something on your mind. If you’d like to speak
about it,I’d be happy to listen. I’m just concerned is all.” As with the
last suggested phrasing, there are some key aspects to point out here:
the emphasis on not wishing to create further problems and a genuine
concern for the individual’s well being. By including both of these
considerations in your approach, it should help the individual feel
“safe” in expressing their concerns as well as calm any anger that may
be brewing, even if what has gotten them riled up in the first place
directly involved something you said or did.
the use of “it seems to me” and “I’m concerned”: Again both of these
phrasings indicate an owning of your emotions without putting words into
the other party’s mouth. If the individual is using the “I’m Fine”
statement, the last thing you want to do is assume you know what’s
bothering them. NEVER assume anything in a conflict - people will and do
c) the emphasis on when THEY’D
like to speak about what’s ailing them. You’ve effectively put the ball
in the other person’s court, BUT IMPORTANTLY ALSO indicated you’d like
to resolve the issue. This demonstrates a mature approach and again
should help the individual open up in a more timely and calm manner.
5) ALWAYS avoid childish “I told you so”-like remarks as well as passive aggressiveness (ie:acting like everything is fine, only to turn around seemingly of nowhere and explode). I believe this is self-explanatory.
6) Learn the Art of Forgiving and Letting Go:
heard the expression, “focus on the task at hand.”While usually uttered
in reference to the workplace, it would do you a great service to also
employ said suggestion when it comes to conflict resolution.Ongoing
guilt-tripping is psychological abuse intended to manipulate and
establish unfair power dynamics in a relationship. It’s a low move and
accomplishes nothing...nothing positive anyway.
as I stated near the beginning of this piece, can serve as a tremendous
source of growth, but that’s only if you allow yourself and others to
move forward, learn from your mistakes and let go.
for forgiving others, set limits and know them. Some acts are altogether
unforgiveable – that’s a given -- but remember, forgiveness benefits
you just as much as the offender. Studies have proven that maintaining
grudges not only affects individuals on an emotional level, but further
can affect one’s physical health. The same goes for living with guilt.
there is a HUGE difference from the listener’s perspective in terms of
being outright called a derogatory comment VERSUS having one’s actions
labelled as symptomatic of that derogatory comment (ie: you are a bitch
vs. you are being a bitch).
Yes, that’s right folks, for clarity purposes, I’m referencing yet again the concept of the “personal attack.” The
former statement above implies a permanent character trait that one
cannot change, while the latter points out that while you are clearly
displeased with the individual’s current choices/behaviour, you still
love/respect them. Criticize actions, not individuals. In other words, this week’s lesson: fight fair.