Conflict in life is just inevitable. There are always going to be hard times and hard situations for us to navigate through. Sometimes we've been really hurt by someone, and other times we've been the one causing hurt. We live in a broken world where people are going to mess up and let each other down. I very much love my husband and my job, our families and our home. But you know what? Things aren't always perfect, and neither are we. There are going to be disagreements, or times when tough conversations with my hubby, a friend, a co-worker, or a family member just need to be had. If these aren't handled and voiced, we can bottle things up until we explode. But how do we go about initiating and handling that in a way that still shows love and grace towards the other person? How do we take responsibility for our own actions while taking steps towards a positive change? Let's work through it together.
Whether it's in a friendship, marriage, roommate, co-worker, or any type of relationship setting, here are five steps to try when handling conflict:
1. Be real with others, no matter how hard it is. Recognize it's okay to not be okay.
I remember telling my hubby that I cried way more with him than I had ever cried with anyone else. He was upset by this, but I told him it was actually a compliment because I was able to let down my guard and be exactly myself with him. It is so encouraging and relieving to let others know how you're really doing. They may never even know you're feeling like something's off unless you have the courage to tell them. They definitely can't make a problem better if they don't know there is one. And never underestimate the power of a good cry, even if it's at Olive Garden over soup and salad (I may be speaking from experience). Break down your wall and be real with someone about the conflict you're feeling or experiencing. Don't bottle it up.
2. Figure out what's really the heart of the matter, and examine your heart.
It can be so hard as women to figure out what's really wrong. I tell Aaron that I just don't know sometimes, but that I'll let him know when I figure it out. One area of conflict for us lately has been laundry, which led me to realize that I want so badly to do everything well but I feel a little overwhelmed right now. And that led me to hold a grudge against Aaron for the time he has at home when I'm not there, time that he should be using in ways that I view to be productive (though he is being productive already). The heart of the matter isn't the clothes in the dryer or on the floor, it's our differing views on expectations of household roles while I'm coaching. And once I realized that, and saw that my heart was assuming the worst, we could talk through it. Take a moment to trace things back. What's really wrong? Where is your heart at?
3. Take responsibility for what you have done and can change.
If only this were easy...especially for my stubborn self. Taking a breath and really reflecting on how I have been a part of the problem is so huge. The only person we ever really have full control over is ourself, and it is our choice to do something to make it better. This is where vulnerability and honesty come in, and are so very important. Even if you have to stop and cool off first, admitting your fault in the situation is so necessary. Though the other person may be equally at fault, focus on what you've done and how you can change it. Though the other person may not be willing to make a change, you have the ability and responsibility to do what you can, and to show them grace. In my situation, I realized that it wasn't fair to Aaron to have these expectations for him when he was working on cars and other things. My heart was bitter. What do you need to own up to? What can you change?
4. Decide on your action steps to change things. Set goals and put your plan in motion.
Actions speak louder than words, and so we've got to make sure they're bringing us towards change. Think about what needs to happen in order to improve things, and then make it happen. Set a couple of small goals and give yourself a deadline to accomplish them. This way, you can't just keep thinking and talking about things; they actually get done. Laundry wise, my goal was to have no more wrinkled, half finished loads so Aaron can look snazzy at work. Action step? Be better about putting laundry in at times when I can easily switch it out, or communicate with Aaron when I need his help to do so. Boom! Half way there already! What are your goals and action steps to make things better?
5. Take time to be with the Lord and continue to make Him a priority.
I just can't emphasize enough how truly important this one is. Without a strong relationship with the Lord, we can't have strong relationships with others. If we aren't loving Him well, how are we going to love those around us well, those who may let us down? In all honestly, I've been struggling a bit with my quiet times lately, and I have truly seen that in the way I've handled conflict and confrontation. If I'm not checking in with God on a daily basis, it's much easier to slip into focusing on myself, and not showing kindness towards others. This is another goal of mine, with action steps to get back on track. To help, I downloaded Proverbs 31 Ministries' First 5 App at the recommendation of a friend, and I am now using it in the morning to be the first thing I do every day. It even has an alarm! How can I hear the whispers of God with all of the shouts of this world? It takes effort and must be a priority. How are you doing in your time with the Lord? Do you see it affecting your relationships and conflict resolution?
None of us are perfect. We are all broken people in need of the grace and love of a savior. Shouldn't we show this same grace to others? Let's admit our brokenness, and share moments when we aren't okay with others. Let's be real and take real steps towards handling times of conflict in a positive way and making a change for the better. Are you with me? Join the community with our newsletter today, or join us on Facebook! I'd love to hear your thoughts, ideas, struggles, and successes in the comments below, or privately on the contact form. I'm sharing my heart in a desire to get better. Are you?
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