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Knocking Down Conflict

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If you're interacting with people at work, school, or anywhere — and especially if you're in a relationship — there is going to be fertile ground for conflict. As wonderful as two people are, when you get individuals together there is going to be disagreement.

While it's well known that resolving differences is mandatory for the health of any relationship, what most of us are still trying to determine is how to knock down arguments before they become volcanic and cancerous.

Want better interactions, happier relationships?

Well, it's just like anything else worth having. It takes learning, it takes new skills, and it requires sacrifice, application, practice, improvement and the will to make it work.

David Burns is an MD and author of Feeling Good Together: The Secret to Making Troubled Relationships Work. His studies and findings have shown that more words, not less, become the key to unlocking the power to understand, heal, and keep peace in relationships.

What's mature, wise, and invaluable about his approach is that it asks one person to kick their pride to the side, drop the finger pointing and indignity, and do an investigation of how the other person is thinking and feeling by acknowledging the other person's feelings first (a critical element in healing) and then giving that person the open highway to speak and share their frustration, pain, or resentment by asking them a specific, open-ended question.

This is conversing in an adult-like manner instead of the typical by-the-seat-of-one's-pants, hair-on-fire, fire-breathing eruption of hurt or the insensitive criticism dagger we decide to stick into people when offended. The results are far more likely to produce fruit instead of garbage because of the presentation.

Accept responsibility for your part, mean it sincerely, and then instead of going for the jugular, allow the other person to talk after asking a calm, cool, collected but specific question about the conflict, while also sharing your concerns and love for that person. That person, knowing you care for them deeply and witnessing your respect and understanding for them will usually feel safe enough and free enough to express their own feelings.

The object of all this is to get at the root of the differences, develop understanding, and create positive, lasting change in a loving environment.

Burns describes human's normal behavior, the feelings conveyed by that behavior, and the ugly consequences. It's obvious new thinking is needed for most relationships with the slew of broken hearts, serial daters, and destroyed marriages. Better tools, less selfishness, more teamwork, increased understanding, and practice can help us all, give us more peace and happiness, and make the world a better place.

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About Michael Toebe on Behavior, Culture & Relationships