Come on, you know who you are!! The one who pretends everything is fine while internally wishing you could rip someone’s head off. I have to admit, sometimes it is good to take the high road and not say anything about your internal frustrations. However, sometimes it doesn’t do anyone any favors by not speaking up when you are upset.
There are no “perfect” relationships. Whether you are having issues with your boyfriend or girlfriend, your friends, your roommate or even your family, there are ways to handle it without going postal on everyone. Conflict is inevitable, but some ways of handling it are better than others. Here are a few tips to help you through that fear of conflict.
First, go directly to the source! Don’t talk about the issues you are having in one relationship with everyone else. The only time this is a good idea is if you truly are unsure about how to handle it. You can ask for some solid advice from one or two people you really trust. They may be able to talk you through it and give you some insight. However, make sure you actually talk to the person you are having a conflict with and address the issue so you can find a resolution.
When I say talk, I mean actually TALK. Not text, not Facebook chat, not tweet or email. It is best to deal with heated subjects face to face. It is harder, but you will avoid a lot of miscommunication this way. Texting something you are upset about can get misinterpreted or you could misinterpret the other person’s response. It is best to talk it out face to face if possible because much of our communication comes from non-verbal sources such as tone of voice and body language. It will help both you and the other person avoid the possibility of a bigger blow up if you can actually see and hear them while having this type of discussion.
So, what non-verbal cues are good to note when you are trying to resolve conflict? Notice your tone of voice, especially the volume. The effect of an “I” statement can get lost if you sound sarcastic or hysterical. Make sure you feel calm enough to talk through the issue without raising your voice. At a certain decibel, people will start to tune you out. If what you have to say is important, make sure you are talking at a level where the other person will want to hear you. Also, watch your body language. Make sure you aren’t standing over the other person and stay out of their personal space. If you look threatening or stand in a threatening manner, it will cause the other person to feel more defensive.
Second, use “I” statements. It is best to handle a conflict by sticking to your own feelings and not making any accusations. For example, if someone has hurt me by something they’ve said or done it is best if I say something like this: “I feel very disrespected and hurt that you left the party last night without telling me”. That is better than saying this: “You are such a self absorbed bitch for leaving the party without me last night”. It is okay to be upset, but going off on the other person isn’t going to help any more than holding all your anger in.
I find that people will listen better when you give them real emotions. Not that anger isn’t a real emotion, however, it’s usually a cover up emotion. That means anger covers up other emotions that you are feeling underneath, such as; hurt, embarrassment, disrespect, disappointment, insecurity, and fear. If you attack someone, expect them to become defensive and attack you back. Anger usually brings on more anger. If you’re brave enough to open up about the real emotions underneath your anger, you will usually get a better response. The person has a better chance of hearing you and making a change if they become aware of how they hurt you. True feelings help the other person understand you better so the issue can be resolved. Using “I” statements with real emotions makes you more vulnerable, but it can bring you closer to the person you are having a conflict with.
Holding all your anger in and avoiding conflict isn’t the answer. It is better to clear the air and try to move forward. You will feel better when you know the other person heard you, and it gives them a chance to try to make a change. You may also find the other person was upset about something that you now have a chance to change and make better. Relationships aren’t easy. They take some work. If you find that you’ve handled the conflict in the best way possible, but the other person isn’t willing to listen or compromise, then you have some other things to think about.
Not everyone you will be in a relationship with will be able to look at themselves and take responsibility. Some people won’t listen even after you’ve poured your whole heart out. If this person is a roommate or a casual friend, it may be easier to separate yourself from this person and move on without them in your life. It takes two people to resolve an issue, if this other person is unwilling to work with you, there isn’t a lot you can do.
If this person is a close friend, family member or significant other it won’t be so easy to separate yourself. Some people decide to accept the person for who they are. They learn to deal with their own anger and decide to take the high road rather than continue to try to resolve the conflict. Other people decide they need to separate from the person for their own mental health even though they don’t really want to. There will be people in your life that put you between a rock and hard place. If you aren’t able to take the high road without building up a lot of resentment and anger, then it may be smart to try to grieve the loss of the relationship. It won’t be easy, but it may be necessary.