Being BRAVE in the Face of Conflict

May 12, 2016

Conflict is an inevitable part of our relationships so I am often more concerned when couples or families tell me they never fight or argue.  At the core of disagreements are strong expressions of passion — we wouldn’t get heated about something or someone if we didn’t care.

Conflicts are frequently a result of us expressing and asserting our individuality which is part of what makes our relationships rich and meaningful.  Without our differences, things would simply be boring.  So my work with families and couples is focused less on diminishing conflict and more on providing people with tools to have more effective conflict, for lack of a better way of putting it.  Not surprising, when people learn to fight differently–with more respect, self-awareness, and openness as opposed to working off fear-based reactions and pure emotions–conflict tends to decrease on its own.  Here are a few simple ways to be BRAVE* when conflict shows up in your relationships:

B — BREATHE: Taking a few seconds or minutes to regulate your own emotions and stress through deep breathing allows you to be present and engaged in the conversation as well as less reactive.  Breathing is one of the easiest and most natural ways we can activate our parasympathetic nervous system when we are faced with situations that makes us feel angry, fearful, or unsure.

R — RESPOND CALMLY:  When you’re able to respond with HIGH consistency and love/appreciation and LOW reactivity you will inevitably decrease resistance from the other side.  Express why this issue at hand is so important to you, how it makes you feel, what exactly it is that you’re asking of or needing from the other person, and how you are willing to help make that happen.

A — ASK FOR SPACE:  If you’re unable to respond calmly and need more time to regulate your own emotions before diving into the conversation, it’s okay to ask for more time — just commit to coming back to the issue at a later time.

V — VALIDATE EMOTIONS:  You can always try to understand how someone else is feeling and where they’re coming from, even if you don’t agree with them.  Until someone feels like you’re at least trying to hear and understand them, they likely won’t be open to what you have to say.

E — EXPLORE YOUR OWN VALUES:  Knowing your own boundaries and what’s important to you helps you deliver your message more clearly and consistently.  Too often we don’t take the time to do this and so we carry over values from our family of origin that we may not have put much thought into but are creeping into our life now as partners, parents, and friends.

*The field of psychology’s love for and extensive use of acronyms is somewhat annoying and very much overdone, but I have jumped on this bandwagon.  For that, I sincerely apologize.

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