So, last time I was talking about the normality of conflict - that it is as inevitable as the sun setting. Or rising.There are heaps of strategies than can be useful for dealing with conflict when it actually happens, and these have been written about everywhere and anywhere..But there is still very little said about how to live in our relationships (in all parts of our lives) in such ways, so that when the inevitable does arrive, it will be less disruptive- ie., how can we be with each other, in ways that will mean conflict will be less intrusive, and less disruptive?
In other words (and I'm still saying conflict is not a bad thing), if we manage our lives with each other slightly differently, (ie., we are pre-emptive or proactive, rather than needing to manage conflict when it has actually arrived) then the conflict will not be such a big deal. You can have a shot at what I'm talking about- by applying the following five steps to just one of the relationships currently in your life. It does not need to be just with a partner, as there is relevance here for all our day to day relationships:
Firstly - think about one particular relationship in which you would like to manage any conflict at the front end, rather than waiting for it to occur. Choose just one for now- you can include more later on, once you see that this works.
Secondly - think about what it is that goes well in that relationship, and start telling the other person on a regular basis. If it is a close relationship, such as someone you live with, tell them at least everyday, until it becomes habitual, then you can cut it back a little. And yes, it might feel a bit fake, or over-done to start with. Do it anyway. You may need to look for things you can comment on, but then you need to say them- an example might be "I like that we have always been good at informing each other of our daily schedule- so that we each know when the the other will be home..." Obviously, you need to keep looking out for things, and to also say different things each time- or at least re-word them, once you have run through your list.. And yes, it might be a challenge to start with, to think of things to say- relationships can be hard work. sometimes...
Thirdly - Sometimes you need to be influenced by the other. What this means is that if you are a person who has strong opinions, if you are the one in this relationship who likes to hold on to their own ideas, and your way of doing things, make it your practice to allow the other person to sway you from time to time. Tell them they are right- but not sarcastically. Do something they have asked you to do. Right away. Let them know you have changed your opinion because of something they said. Don't dig your heels in all the time, just because this has been your tendency- guys in particular need to be able to accept influence more... (sorry guys, but it's true...the research says so...!)
Fourthly - Respect them and your relationship with them at all times. Be an allie for them, so that others come to know that that they cannot criticise the person in your presence- but make sure too, that you always respect the person yourself- be a warrior for the other person sometimes, such as when they are worn down by differences or conflict with someone else. Support them, even if you may not always agree with how they have handled a situation with someone else.
Fifthly - (is there such a word?) And this point sounds a bit like number two, but it is very different, and very important. Perhaps the most important one of all. Notice when the other person in the relationship does something for you- and verbally acknowledge it. No matter how small- they bring you a cup of coffee when you did not even ask for one. They compliment you. They buy you something as a surprise that you have been hankering after for ages.
Consciously look for things each day that they do, and make a comment. Chances are they will then do more for stuff for you- great, though this is not your focus- it is to ''conflict-proof' the relationship. And it will work- because conflict can be much more readily shaken off, if it is happening in a relationship where there is subtstantial positivity occurring...In other words, the relationship itself becomes more resilient.
Sounds simplistic, some of this stuff, but I know it works.... For some thoughts about Jerry Seinfeld's views on relationships, take a peek here.
Speaking of positivity, I've been busy with the AMHCA conference in Boston over the last few days. On Friday I was lucky to be able to join a small workshop for the day with Dr Barbara Fredrickson, who has current world prominence for her research into positivityand the psychology of happiness..Quite a few folks present (me included) were expecting strategies for use in clinical work with their clients, but she made it clear that she is a scientist and not a clinician..It was still very useful, and she talked at length about her research at the University of North Carolina. She confirms some of the findings coming from the field of positive psychology over the last few years - I won't go into it here, because she can talk about it much better than I can, and does so in a book she has just published called "Positivity." But as I've said in an earlier blog, there are multiple benefits in all aspects of our being, if we can maintain a feeling of positivity.
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."