Conflict and fighting are not synonymous. Although they very often go hand-in-hand, disagreements need not end up as arguments, fights, or physical altercations. A conflict is simply two forces in opposition: a husband and wife disagree on where to spend their vacation; you support the Republican party, your friend is a staunch Democrat; best friends listen to radically different music. Conflict can actually be a very positive force in our lives as it introduces us to new ideas, new possibilities, and the opportunity to learn and expand our world. Fighting, on the other hand, is based on hostility and struggle to obtain what is desired.
Yet many people would gladly have a root canal rather than address a conflict. There are yes- men, people-pleasers, and the peace-keepers, all of whom seek to maintain the status quo as opposed to upsetting anyone or anything. An undeniable aspect of life, resolving our differences is something few of us were properly taught how to do. As children, very often the larger or more aggressive child would win the dispute, leaving the other one feeling defeated and resentful. Some grow into adulthood learning to cower to the stronger one, others become defensive and prepare to fight for their individual rights. Either way, we approach conflict with great trepidation and angst, anticipating the worst.
The key to resolving conflict is never by using avoidance techniques. An uncomfortable reaction to conflict is the result of the internal issues we have not yet resolved that are being triggered by the event. Here's an example: if my experiences in life have led me to feel unimportant, if I have felt as though no one really cares about me or how I feel, then when my husband tells me he wants to go out for MacDonald's (knowing that I would much prefer Chinese food) my insecurities are triggered and I become defensive. At that moment, I experience him not as my loving partner but rather my opposition. I am prepared to argue and fight in order to be treated fairly.
Emotions act as messengers – they alert us to those troublesome issues we need to address and heal within us. Once I acknowledge that his behavior is actually triggering my own insecurities, I can begin the process of strengthening my self-worth. Feeling strong and self-assured in my own skin allows me to debate our disagreement calmly and confidently, finding a mutually satisfactory resolution. Resorting to fighting or aggressive tactics is completely unnecessary because no painful buttons are being pushed.
Conflict is an ever-present part of our lives but it needn't escalate into a battle. They key to eliminating fighting lies within me. When I heal my internal issues, disagreements are discussed and resolved with relative ease.
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