Family Psychologist Sally O'Reilly answers this question
So given that we can't avoid conflict completely, it seems the best we can do is to fight 'better'.
We tend to dislike conflict because we want to avoid the feelings it brings up in us. So relax into your seat now and have a little (non-judgemental!) think:
What often happens is we get into it over a small thing - like an untidy bedroom. If one partner rages at the other over the mess, then the raged-at partner might be scratching their head wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, it's been untidy for months and you've never complained before, so why is it suddenly "wrong"?? But what if this untidy room is the last straw? What if the mess represents feelings of being taken for granted, feeling disrespected, feeling overburdened by housework?
What if the other person isn't 'wrong' either? What if they too are hurt or taking something personally? What if they simply have a different opinion from yours? Maybe they had a different experience to yours, or have different, insufficient or better (!!) information than yours?
When being 'right' goes wrong.
- “No, you’re SO wrong there. You just can’t see it”
- “Jeez – I thought you were more open minded”
- “That’s just stupid”
- "Everyone else agrees with me so ..."
And the relationship loses.
When we dump our attachment to being 'right', magic happens! Here are some ideas for when things get heated:
(Warning - requires willpower!!)
- “Hmmmmm..That’s an interesting point of view – I hadn’t thought of it that way!” This is how we show people we are flexible and mature enough to recognise an opportunity to learn when we see one. It will soothe the other person too! Win win.
- “Oh – that’s a new way of seeing it – can you help me to understand how you got there?" This again shows a willingness to put aside your ego and learn more from the other person even if their idea seems bizarre and difficult for you to grasp. And you may even change your stance (it happens!). Even if you don’t you’ll have learned something new. Win win again.
- “I see it differently - can I show you the information I have?” This is a respectful way of offering an alternative view and giving the person the choice about hearing it – you aren’t ‘shoving anything down their throat’. You're confident in your opinion but won't force them to hear it and agree with it. You guessed it - win win!
- If you’re tempted to start forcing it, breathe, and try this:
- “Ah OK – so we understand it differently. OK!”, which is a handy escape hatch if you can sense your belief systems differing so greatly that you’ll never compromise on a particular topic.
If normal everyday small disagreements escalate quickly and become abusive, then it's worth asking what you are getting from being in the relationship. What are your kids learning?
Sally O’Reilly is the Family Psychology Expert at Family Friendly HQ. She's a Psychologist, Psychotherapist & Clinical Supervisor in private practice in East Cork with twenty years’ full time experience. She has a special interest in working with teenagers. For more info contact her through her site sallyoreilly.comor on Twitter @psychosal or FB at Sally O'Reilly Psychology & Psychotherapy.