Have you ever known someone who stated, “I hate conflict”? I have known a person or two that said this, some of whom went to great lengths to avoid conflict even when it meant not getting what they needed (and in my opinion deserved) out of a relationship.
No emotionally healthy person likes conflict. A healthy person may have the insight to embrace conflict because they understand it is a sometimes necessary catalyst for change. But no one likes not getting along with those they love, live with or even work with.
I used to really dislike conflict. And I also used to want to believe that I could live a relatively conflict-free life. But the truth is—I can’t. I can pick my friends. But no one gets to pick the family into which they are born, nor do we always get to pick the personalities with whom we work. And there is also what I call the regular conflict of life—the dog throwing up on the rug, losing your debit card or getting into a fender bender. Conflict is inevitable; however, with the right practice and skills I have learned how to weather most conflict using both positive coping and communication skills.
Years ago when I came to the conclusion that conflict is a regular part of life, I started looking at three main things regarding conflict: 1) my emotional triggers or hotspots—meaning what types of conflict trigger me most or “bring out the worst in me”, 2) what my go-to style of communication is when I am triggered/in the midst of conflict, and 3) how I cope (engage in self-care) during and after times of conflict.
I will use my friend Sydney as an example to explain these 3 main points regarding conflict. (Sydney is a personal friend and not a client and I have changed her name with her permission for this piece). Sydney recently lost her mom to cancer. She has identified that talking about her mom and specifically talking to her brother about their mom’s estate is a trigger for her. When this conversation begins to occur, Sydney’s go-to communication style is to shut down completely or yell at her brother. Finally, Sydney has identified that to cope when this conflict arises she physically leaves the space near her brother (instead of talking with him) to either pour a glass of wine or go for a walk. Sydney has verbalized to me that going for a walk is her most healthy and preferred coping skill during this life season, but that she also realizes she should finish her conversation with her brother before abruptly leaving.
Here is what Sydney has realized over the past few months since losing her mom. She knows when she has to talk to her brother about the estate she is going to get upset because 1) it reminds her of her mom who she misses and 2), because she has a strained relationship with her brother. Because of this, she now writes down her main ideas before they begin talking so she feels more in control and less flustered. Sydney tries to begin every sentence with “I” when talking to her brother so he does not feel threatened or upset. And Sydney has discovered that if she becomes tearful during the conversation and cannot finish talking even though she tries, she needs to ask her brother to table the discussion and talk about it later so she can engage in a healthy coping skill.
All of this insight came about for Sydney after taking some time and processing with a trusted therapist. And we too, in order to gain personal insight, have to spend time exploring what upsets us, why it does, how to cope and how to still communicate appropriately and effectively during these emotional times. These communication and coping skills are essential to life and our relationships because if we can master them we can be better heard, better understood and hopefully more fulfilled because we know what we want and how to talk about it in ways those closest to us can understand.
If you are struggling with any sort of conflict or mental health disorder, a trained and seasoned Orlando psychotherapist can help you. We offer individual, couples’, family and group therapy. Please call Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced counselors.