“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between destroying a relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”

– William James

How do you react when you feel as if a special person in your life has disregarded something that is of high importance to you? If you are anything like me, you will feel irritation or even anger. Maybe sadness? Perhaps you withdraw, building a brick wall between you and your loved one. Giving the other person the silent treatment, refusing to speak about your feelings. Or about their feelings? Or perhaps you pretend as if everything is okay to avoid rocking the boat. The peacemaker at all cost. Remember, conflict in relationships is completely normal. When handled in a healthy manner, it can bring about immense growth in our relationships AND in ourselves. But, when handled in an unhealthy manner, it can bring about unhappiness and disappointment. And what about that familiar feeling of unimportance? So, why do we have conflict in relationships? Conflict occurs whenever one person in a relationship (Person A) has the perception that the other person (Person B) isn’t honouring what is of importance to him/her (Person A). For example, I absolutely love it when my husband gives me quality time with him (it is of high importance to me). And guess what? He perceives he gives me a lot of his attention. Whenever he takes time out of what he is doing to listen to me, I feel that he is caring. When he doesn’t give me that time, and I feel that he negates what I am busy trying to accomplish, I get angry. A bit one-sided, but I am a human-being with my own unique expectations and desires. Whenever there is conflict in your relationship and you feel a strong reaction toward the other person, it is wise to pause, look into yourself, and identify what is so important to you that you feel has been challenged by the other person. Or if the other person is upset with YOU, go and look at what they believe is being challenged by YOU. There are THREE ways in which people react to conflict:
  1. By being the Pleaser: The Pleaser will bend over backwards to have peace in the relationship, believing that he/she is doing it for the other person. However, the Pleaser is the one desiring peace and is thus doing it for him/herself.
  2. By being the Withdrawer: The Withdrawer typically gives the other person the silent treatment, choosing to ignore him/her.
  3. By being the Aggressor: The Aggressor will react with anger, using heated words, actions, and facial expressions to instigate an argument.
Which one, or combination of more than one are you? Tips for dealing with conflict in a healthy manner:
  • Identify how you react to conflict
Once you identify how you react to conflict in your relationship (by being the Pleaser, Withdrawer, or Aggressor) you will have a better understanding of what needs to change.
  • Express your feelings
Instead of pointing fingers, tell the person you are in a relationship with how you are feeling, starting with the sentence, “I feel…” For example:  “I feel unimportant and disregarded when you keep on looking at the computer screen when I wish to talk to you.”
  • Initiate the “Apology Conversation”
The “Apology Conversation” was created by marriage counsellor Paul Nyamuda, my co-presenter on the television series Saving Our Marriage (currently airing on SABC 3). It is broken down into 4 steps which can be remembered using the acronym AIRR.
  • A – Admission
  • This is where you admit that you have done something careless to the other person.
  • I – Impact
  • This is where you acknowledge the impact your action has on the other person.
  • R – Remorse
  • This is where you say sorry for what you have done.
  • R – Restitution
  • This is where you say what you are willing to do to make things right.
I recently initiated the “Apology Conversation” when I was unkind to a person because I didn’t like what she was telling me.  
This is what I said: “I was wrong for showing my anger when you told me about something that was really important to you (ADMIT). I know that when I did that, I made you feel unimportant (IMPACT). I apologize for making those comments and coming across as if I don’t care (REMORSE). In the future, I will watch how I respond to you because I want to be in a caring relationship with you (RESTITUTION).” Remember, conflict doesn’t have to be the destructive force in a relationship. It can be used to learn more about the other person’s values and feelings. It can be used as an opportunity to foster better communication skills. It can be used as an opportunity to make the relationships in your life even stronger. So, how are you currently handling the conflict in your relationships? Would you love to learn how to turn conflict into opportunities for growth? I encourage you to watch how I help the couples on the tv series, “Saving our Marriage” currently on SABC 3 on Wednesdays at 19h30 and the repeat on Saturdays at 13h00. You can also catch up on the episodes already aired on https://ilzealberts.isorise.com/saving-our-marriage/. I have behind the scenes golden nuggets here for you as well. Another option is to drop me an email at ilze@ilzealberts.com or send me a WhatsApp. Simply ask me to connect with you on a free call to explore how I can help you have powerful, dynamic relationships. PS: Remember to share your cell number with me in your email so I can call you. Because you deserve the absolute best. From my heart to yours, Ilze

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