Dealing with relationship conflict
Any conflict, with anyone, can be draining and distracting. Think about it – falling out with your boss is about as bad as falling out with your partner at home. OK in the long run maybe you can leave a job (perhaps the same could be said of a relationship), but in both scenarios you are likely to feel sad, frustrated and worried. When you fall out with someone it can leave you feeling emotional and teary, angry or even in a ‘frozen’ state not knowing what to do or how to move forward.
Relationship conflict is normal
We doubt there is a single person who will go through life without having to deal with a relationship breakdown. In many respects finding out what you don’t like about other people’s behaviour is a good marker for discovering what you do like. Good relationships are founded on mutual respect, trust and gratitude. You need to know what something ‘less than perfect’ feels like, in order to work out what standards you are willing to accept and uphold!
When it goes wrong
But what if you’re already in the place of having fallen out with someone – say a friend, or indeed a close work colleague? What can you do to better understand what is going on? How can you (if you feel motivated to), fix the problem and get back on track?
Before looking at the other person, it’s wise to look in the mirror
A good place to start is to acknowledge what ‘not getting on’ looks and feels like. What is actually happening in the relationship that’s making it feel difficult? Do these negative experiences happen regularly, over the same issues or every now and again? Does any pattern exist? Is there something outside of the relationship that is triggering the problem? While it might be uncomfortable to go over your thoughts and feelings on the issue, our experience suggests it really helps.
Ask the tough questions
What differences can you spot between what you think is going on, and what is really going on? By this we mean, what is truth, versus, what is your perception of the truth? This is a really tough exercise to work through. Fundamentally it asks you to suspend the belief that you are right about the situation and to acknowledge that your own prejudices, or unconscious bias might be causing part of the problem. We find that asking yourself how or why the other person might be right (and you wrong) is a fantastic sobering perspective to sit in – if even for just a moment!
Work on your EQ
To resolve relationship conflict, you need to build up your emotional intelligence. That’s not to say you have poor emotional intelligence, only to say that when conflict strikes sometimes your radar can get knocked off its normal frequency. By bringing your emotions under control (talking about facts, rather than assumptions), and by tuning into the other person, you can begin to gain a greater understanding as to why you might be disagreeing.
We’re great believers that few well-adjusted people set out to create bad relationships. Let’s face it, they’re not pleasant for anyone. This being the case, if you really want to resolve relationship conflict then it’s worth thinking about how to build better two-way communication. If it feels like you’re always having to make too many assumptions about how someone else is feeling – find a way of asking them! You might need to do this sensitively and with care, especially if the other person finds it hard to open up.
We also think it helps to pinpoint the exact emotion you are feeling, rather than labelling something generically. You might say you’re feeling ‘angry’ at another person for example, when really, you mean they have hurt you, disappointed you, or made you feel put upon or criticised. By labelling your emotions specifically, you can start an honest conversation about how to get back on track.
For help mending broken relationships, why not use the content in our journal Not Getting On With Someone At Work for further tips and advice.