3 Steps to Resolving Tension or Conflict

Often, the most difficult part of family or working relationships is when a little grain of sand makes its way into the otherwise seamless flow of everyday living. Just like the grain of sand inside an oyster causes an irritant and then is layered in what will eventually become a pearl, working to resolve the “irritants” can make the climate where we spend most of our time and focus a lot more pleasant. Overlooked, the irritant may grow and continue to have a negative impact.

These situations can and most often are based on assumptions made by one party toward or about the other. These assumptions can be “birthed” by idle chitchat from a third party and can make the normal routine very tense. Taking steps to overcome this unfortunate circumstance can replace the climate balance and life can resume. Refusing to address these issues can consume a lot of mental energy. Consider what resolution may look like in the way of managing conflict.1- Build a unique confidence to confront in a kind and loving way when it is necessary. It is common and normal to have a certain hesitancy around addressing an issue that is assumed as having some sort of conflict attached to it. The fact that fear is present in the concern around confronting the issue doesn’t mean it should be avoided. While we often shy away from fear, it actually can help develop a needed confidence to address issues before they can get out of hand. True, feeling fear is uncomfortable, but not much outside of stepping out of our comfort zone will ever stretch us to be all we can be. Consider the costs of the situation remaining as it is or imagine the worst case scenario. Can you live with that? If not, step forward. If you think you can, consider the best case scenario of what it could be if it were to be resolved. Can you live with less than that? If not, take a baby step forward. Since a moment of quiet prayer can actually calm you, prayerfully consider the best time to approach the other person. When the time feels right, calmly let them know what you are sensing and inquire as to what their thoughts are around the subject. Regardless of the response you receive, it will be more liberating for you to get it out in the open in a calm, well thought out manner, than for you to continue to fret about it. You may not receive the immediate response that you desire, but in time, you may be pleasantly surprised.2 – Taking ownership of what we may have contributed in the breakdown can be empowering. While no one would argue that we aren’t always the cause of all of our problems, confronting an issue in our mind and heart before we approach another person can often help us to sort out our sensitive feelings and determine what we are responsible for in the situation. Having done so, we can be empowered to confront the other person in a manner that will be less hostile and will diffuse the temptation to become defensive. I recommend journaling thoughts and feelings for clarity so you can organize them and work through your emotions. Diffusing emotions before addressing an issue will help maintain self-control without derailing the process by anger.3 – Actively listen to the other person as they respond. The second most difficult part of a confrontation that seeks to clear the air and restore peace is making a concerted effort to really listen to the other person as they share their thoughts or feelings. This is especially true if you disagree with what they are saying. Listening does not mean agreement. Listening is demonstrating respect. A good rule here is to listen to the person as you would desire to be listened to in a situation that may be difficult for you to express. In coaching, I often find that when a person is truly acknowledged, listened to and heard, they feel safe and are willing to share and work through the process to create a breakthrough. It can sometimes take a breakdown to bring a breakthrough. We may be working to achieve a higher level of relating than we could ever have imagined by allowing ourselves to grow in the process. If we gain a deeper understanding, we may gain a stronger bond in the relationship. This will work in building teamwork at home or at work. What do we have to lose if the air is already thick with tension? The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. It can be a risk well worth taking. What is the value of restored peace? For me, it is priceless.

Sheri Geyer is a Christian Life Coach, Mentor, Writer, Wife & Mom

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