All of us have been conditioned to see conflict as a bad thing, and most people do see it that way. They also assume that if there is a lot of conflict in their relationship, that their relationship is bad, or is a problem. As long as we see conflict as a bad thing, we will get emotionally triggered when it comes up, we’ll react to it in negative ways, and we’ll judge it, ourselves, our partner, and our relationship for it. Does that sound like a recipe for resolving conflict? We don’t think so.
Whether you look at NASA training astronauts, professional sports, business environments, professional acting, or giving birth, you’ll find that the experts teach people to remain calm in order to succeed at their given task. Have you ever heard someone say, “now the best way to do this is to close your eyes, get really nervous and worried, and run around like crazy”? If so, then I recommend staying far away from that ‘expert’ or activity.
There are so many reasons why remaining calm is important. Remaining calm is:
- good for your health
- increases your awareness
- helps you make wiser choices
- helps you understand what is happening
- helps you communicate and act precisely and effectively
- helps you learn from situations
All of these benefits apply to when conflict arises in your relationship. Unfortunately, when conflict comes up, we actually tend to get really tense and nervous, start taking things personally, start emotionally reacting, start projecting things onto each other, lose sight of our deeper intentions, fail to listen and observe what’s happening unbiasedly, and fail to learn from it. If this is how we handle conflict, how will we ever learn how to reduce it and diminish it’s intensity? How will we be able to hear what our partner is feeling, and understand them more deeply so that we can work with them (not against them)?
Here’s the kicker… As long as we continue to see conflict as a BAD thing, or as PROBLEM, then we will continue to get emotionally triggered when conflict comes up and significantly diminish our capacity to navigate those times wisely, avoid conflict, learn from conflict, and heal it.
Therefore, in order to start reducing conflict in our relationship, we must learn to first become calm, focused, intentional, and patient in regards to conflict. To do this, we must shift our relationship to conflict. We must stop seeing it as a bad thing, and start seeing it as a GOOD thing. Do I sound crazy, or is this making sense?
Conflict is not a bad thing. It’s a part of every relationship. If any couple tells you they experience no conflict, they are not being honest! Conflict is part of the growing experience that relationships give us. In order to resolve conflict in our relationship we must first be willing to accept it! If we fight it, avoid it, reject it, or judge it, how can we hold it up close, examine it, and understand it in order to release it? Can a mechanic fix a vehicle if she or he doesn’t accept it into their garage? No! We can’t fix things by rejecting them and we can’t accept things if we judge them. So one of the first steps to resolving conflict is really to stop judging it, and start embracing it as an OPPORTUNITY to improve your relationship.
That means that the next time your partner starts to criticize, yell, judge, or whatever they do, that you can stay calm and observe. Even if you start feeling very emotionally triggered and you start to feel angry, sad, hurt, and have lots of negative thoughts and fearful projections and imaginings about the meaning and implication of what’s happening… you can stay calm and observe. You can intend to not react to your negative thoughts, emotions, and pain, and you can choose to wisely respond. We have a book that offers an excellent guide to this process. When you start to operate this way during conflict, you’ll start to bring more consciousness into your relationship. You’ll become more empowered to minimize and reduce conflict. Otherwise, if you react in tune with your partner, then you’ll end up trying to fight fire with fire – which will only create more fire – and then opportunity for learning will get buried under judgments, criticisms, and painful emotions. Additionally, you might do things that you regret that you can’t take back.
Every pain driven decision we make tends to create more pain, and more confusion. By shifting our relationship to conflict, by starting to see it as a good thing, a normal thing, and as an opportunity, we can begin to learn from it each time it comes up. With that learning we can modify our words and actions so that we can bring about positive change in the relationship. If we don’t do this, we stay stuck in a cycle of emotional reaction. Each time you do this it has a powerful affect. Every time you choose patience over emotional reaction, it can make a difference. Everything you say and do, whether constructive or destructive, makes a difference. The more consciously you utilize your God given free will in your relationship, the more empowered you will be.
It’s not easy. When we get emotionally triggered, we get triggered into fight or flight behaviors, projections, and emotions. We often times don’t even know when we’ve been triggered into this state until later once we’ve reacted to it. By not reacting to it, by applying all of your willpower to see beyond your fearful, painful projections and emotions, you CAN act consciously and lovingly even when your partner is doing the most hurtful of things. By acting this way, you’ll be able to help your partner change. You’ll help them change because your calm, intentional, responses (as opposed to reactions) will act as a sort of mirror.
For example, if your partner said something hurtful to you, typically, one might say something hurtful back or judge them and say, “you really hurt me”. In this situation, typically, your partner would get triggered by your reaction and get distracted away from what they did and why. If, instead, your respond with love and understanding, then your partner will be given an opportunity to REFLECT on what they said, whether they show it or not.
I hope that through this article, you’ve come to see the value, benefits, and necessity of shifting your relationship to conflict in order to reduce and resolve conflict in your relationship.