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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  • Dr_manigault

    I am guilty of 1-6. The worse part is that as recent as Thursday I did them all and I think I just ruined a friendship because I refused to communicate. The only thing with number 2 is that I never blow up. I just walk away and never address the situation.

  • Girliusmaximus

    For “mind reading” and “generalizing”, I’ll say this –  When someone constantly does something inconsiderate on a regular basis after you’ve communicated how it makes you feel/affect you, you do start to wonder if the person gives a sh*t or not… Which leads to generalizations such as “you never”, “you always”, “why do you”, etc.

  • Darcampb

    Don’t forget the people who issue low blows, taking intimate knowledge they are privy to as a trusted confidante and using it against you. Those types of people are just despicable.

  • Doodzy

    I’ll lay an anecdote on ya’ll.

    Yesterday, tenksgibbin, my love and I were playing scategories.  He had never played it before, so he was eager to play, but also being a little bit condescending.  I admittedly am an aggressive player (of anything) and tried my best to show him what to do and where.  He was so offended he just said he didn’t want to play any more and went into another room to brood.  I was quite angry but I decided not to stoke the flames.  I finished the game and went to see him.

    He was laying near prostrate, a sad/sour look on his face.  I sat down next to him and and gently rubbed his face and head.  Even though I was angry, I made sure to keep my cool and just see him for who he is.  We are still new in our relationship. so getting to know each other’s quirks sometimes can be challenging.  He then uttered “I’m not mad at you or anything… but you were being kind of a jerk.”
    “I’m not allowed to shine sometimes, baby?  I play aggressively, but I in no way meant to hurt you,” said I.
    I kisses his forehead and said that I was really sorry if I offended him and he apologized in earnest for being too sensitive.  A few minutes later were were competing against each other and having a grand slam of a time at Balderdash! ;DLove really does conquer all.  And a gentle voice really really does turn away anger.

  • MrsIndependent

    I communicated my concerns and what was his response, nothing. so I said, well it looks like you and i i looking for different things, lets just be strictly friend and  he does not want that either. So if i clearly tell you what i want and you are not giving me what i want then move on to another female. I’m one of those females that is honest enough to say, i’m probably not the one for you. But these men today get mad! wtf is that all about??? Why do men not consider the possibility that if they are not giving what the woman wants there are men out there who are okay with her expectations and one of them maybe her Mr. Right. But noooo they want to selfishly keep a good woman to themselves… whats up with that???
    sorry y’all i had to vent!

    • Girliusmaximus

      Beautiful and well said. (I’m sittting at my desk clapping at work. For Real).  I wish I knew the answer to that myself. If you not doing what I want, I’m not gone try to change you or tell you that you’re some no good man who aint sh*t. You just aren’t for me boo and I’m not for you. Put that on a T-shirt and bumper sticker ASAP.

    • DarkPhantom

      they want to selfishly keep a good woman to themselves… whats up with that???

      You answered your own question. He wants to meet those expectations.

  • Cora

    I know some people who could definitely benefit from this article.

  • Marier

    I’m so guilty of #2. Not saying anything and then over time I blow up like a rotten bag a cabbage.
    Will try to work on talking about it now and not tomorrow.