The 9 Worst Ways to Handle Conflict

November 25, 2011  |  
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Common sense, and research says that good communication can improve relationships by increasing intimacy, trust and support. The opposite is also true.  Poor communication can weaken bonds and create mistrust. Here are some examples of negative and even destructive attitudes and communication patterns that can actually increase conflict in a relationship. Are you following one of these steps without even knowing it?

1. Avoiding Conflict

Rather than discussing frustrations in a calm, respectful manner, some people just don’t say anything to their partner until they’re ready to explode, and then blurt it out in an angry, hurtful way. They assume this is the less stressful route, avoiding an argument altogether, but generally it causes more stress to both parties as tensions rise and a much bigger argument eventually results. It’s much healthier to address and resolve conflict right when it occurs, or as soon as you can be alone to discuss it like adults.

2. Being “Right”

It is very unproductive to think that there is a “right” way to look at things and a “wrong” way to look at things, and that your way of seeing things is right. Don’t demand that your partner see things the same way, and don’t take it as a personal attack if they have a different opinion. Look for a compromise or just agree to disagree, and remember that there’s not always a “right” or a “wrong.” Two points of view can both be valid.

3. Overgeneralizing

When something happens that you don’t like, some people tend to blow the entire issue out of proportion by making generalizations. Avoid starting sentences with, “You always,” and, “You never,” as in, “You always come home late!” or, “You never do what I want to do!” Stop and think about whether or not this is really true. Also, don’t bring up past conflicts to throw the discussion off-topic and stir up more negativity. This stands in the way of true conflict resolution, and increases the level of conflict.

4. Being Defensive

Rather than addressing a partner’s complaints and truly contemplating if their point are valid, defensive people strongly deny any wrongdoing and don’t recognize that they could be contributing to a problem. Denying responsibility can alleviate some stress in the short run, but creates long-term problems when partners don’t establish effective communication and unresolved conflicts and continue to grow.

5. Mind-Reading

Instead of asking about their partner’s thoughts and feelings, people sometimes decide that they “know” what their partners are thinking and feeling.  They try to interpret their actions and almost always expect the worst.  For example, if your man is late to meet you for dinner, you might think that he doesn’t care enough to be on time and doesn’t value your relationship as much as you do. This creates hostility and misunderstandings. It’s important to keep in mind that we all come from a unique perspective so listen to the other person and let them explain where they are coming from before you convince yourself of the worst.

6. Listen up

Some people interrupt, roll their eyes, and rehearse what they’re going to say next instead of truly listening and attempting to understand their partner. This keeps you from seeing their point of view, and keeps your partner from wanting to see yours! Don’t underestimate the importance of really listening and empathizing with the other person. Don’t you want him to listen to all of your amazing points when it’s your turn to talk?

7. Playing the Blame Game

Some people handle conflict by criticizing and blaming the other person for the situation. They see admitting any weakness on their own part as a weakening of their credibility, and avoid it at all costs, and even try to shame them for being “at fault.” Instead, try to view conflict as an opportunity to analyze the situation objectively, assess the needs of both parties and come up with a solution that helps you both.  Nobody likes to admit fault, but to move on in a productive manner, you must push your ego aside and look at the facts, and more importantly how to resolve the situation.

8. Trying to “Win”

For this point, let’s quote Dr. Phil when he said, “that if people are focused on “winning” the argument, the relationship loses!” The point of a relationship discussion should be mutual understanding and coming to an agreement or resolution that respects everyone’s needs. If you’re making a case for how wrong the other person is, discounting their feelings, and staying stuck in your point of view, your focused in the wrong direction.  If you want to win at something, go play a sport, don’t bring that competitive nature into your relationship.

9. Stonewalling

When one partner wants to discuss issues in the relationship, some people defensively stonewall, or refuse to talk or listen to their partner. This shows disrespect and, in certain situations, even contempt, while at the same time letting the underlying conflict grow. Stonewalling solves nothing, but creates hard feelings and damages relationships. It’s much better to listen and discuss things in a respectful manner.

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