From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Conflict: What Did You Say?
Interpersonal conflicts are the worst! They are destructive to relationships and they
exact a steep emotional toll on those persons involved. But all to often, amongst the best
of friends or family members, conflicts do arise over things said or done. When conflicts
occur, how do people and relationships survive? Here are a few hints.
- Write your feelings down to get the anger out. When we're upset, we often feel a host of
confusing feelings. It is easy to unload anger inappropriately or fail to express
ourselves adequately. Writing down your feelings helps to organize your thoughts and
relieve tension. Once on paper, it may be easier to sort out the issues.
- Allow yourself to calm down --- then talk. It is almost impossible to discuss things
rationally when emotions abound. While talking is critical, it is also important to avoid
furthering the injury. Take a little time, breathe deeply, take a walk... then when you
have an open mind, begin the process of negotiation.
- Avoid the Right-Wrong Trap. Let's face it... everybody's always right. Or at least
nobody wants to be wrong. The only way to resolve disputes is to assume that everyone is
correct from their own perspective. Respect your opponent. Assume that they acted as
correctly as was possible at the time.
- If you're sorry, say so! Many people find it hard to apologize. They assume that an
apology is an admission of guilt. However, it is possible for both parties to say they are
sorry for the pain of their misunderstanding, with neither one losing face. This is often
the quickest solution to a painful problem.
- Be aware of the cost of bearing a grudge. Our most painful encounters are usually with
those who are closest to us. Skirmishes often develop between siblings, relatives or best
friends at highly emotional times. Feuds begin when feelings are hurt. The price of pride
is very high. Lifelong relationships can be sabotaged over petty misunderstandings... a
loss that few of us can afford.
In her latest book, Maya Angelou shares her views on the subject when she says
"Living life as art requires a readiness to forgive. I do not mean that you should
suffer fools gladly, but rather remember your own shortcomings, and when you encounter
another with flaws, don't be eager to righteously seal yourself away from the offender
forever. Take a few breaths and imagine yourself having just committed the action which
has set you at odds" (1993).
ęCopyright, 1993, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 17, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,