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Crucial Conversations



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How good are you at confronting conflict? Some people confront conflict very easily at work, but struggle in their personal relationships. Although most people don't like conflict, it's a part of everyone's life. We can't avoid conflict and I believe it doesn't go away on its own. Of course it depends upon the magnitude of the conflict and the people involved. Sometimes the conflict builds or percolates for a period of time before we take action, often causing us significant distress. Some assume that conflict is to be avoided at all cost and that it results in the destruction of relationships. Ironically, not dealing with conflict can destroy a marriage. Lingering and unresolved conflict usually results in detachment and disconnectedness from the other person. By the way, conflict can be a disagreement, argument, or difference of opinion. Many people think of conflict as a knock down, drag out fight that is aggressive and volatile, but not all conflict has to be that way. Often the sooner you address it, the less likely an abundance of emotion is accumulated, although there may need to be a short cooling off period before entering into the conversation.


Often people believe that addressing a conflict will cause more problems. Of course that depends upon how the conflict is approached and delivered. They may fear conflict because they witnessed bad outcomes in the past and assume that today will be no different. In fact, some never saw successful conflict resolution as children and have no idea how to maneuver that path. They lack the confidence, communication skills, and trust that it takes to be successful in dealing with conflict. Some avoid conflict because their fears override their motivation to confront. The irony is that hanging onto conflict creates more anxiety, resentment, and anger along with withdrawal from others. So how do we have those crucial conversations?


Sometimes it helps to write out a script before talking to the person directly. Organizing our thoughts and creating a concise dialogue can be helpful. The focus of the conversation should be on the other person's behavior (not their character) and the impact that it has on you. Begin your feeling statements with "I" instead of "you" such as "I feel neglected when you work long hours" and be sure to avoid telling them what they should be doing instead, unless they ask. Offering specific recent examples (no ancient history please) can be beneficial. The objective is to give constructive feedback in a kind and respectful manner. We shouldn't expect that change will occur immediately, but hope that they will consider the feedback and reflect on change. We can't control others' choices or actions, but we can control our own. Once we've shared our thoughts and feelings it's important to let it go. If nothing changes it may be time to consider other options such as counseling. Ultimately the goal is to deal directly with conflict in order to grow closer in the relationship, heal the pain, and experience internal peace. Remember that conflict that remains in your head will never be resolved; it needs to reach your lips.

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© 2019 by Colgrin