This article summarizes keys to dealing with conflict in ways that make it easier to see the big picture of what you are trying to accomplish, whether it is in business or in your personal life.

The devastation from the effects of 9-11 in New York, Katrina’s sudden path, and the Tsunami has created a subtle rumble all over our nation as we watch from a distance the suffering that keeps happening. I have noticed that as fear spreads throughout the media and into our hearts, we have been feeling ungrounded and more prone to losing the heart based presence that keeps us connecting with one another in a healthy way. It reminds us of needing to handle conflict with more consciousness than ever before.

Having a good relationship does not mean that you agree with each other about everything. Conflict is inevitable when different people share part of or a whole life together. In the case of partners, one may want to go out to dinner and the other may want to share a video on Friday evening. Other conflicts may be more serious or have a difficult history.

It is essential that you stay calm and honest when dealing with conflicts. The more you discuss the issues involved, the more comfortable it becomes to find your voice and your truth about the topic. It becomes harder when you care more intensely and thus these keys become more critical.

The following are some TIPS on working things out when there are difficult feelings that come up during the normal process of living in a relationship.

  • TIMING – Pick a time and place where you are comfortable, rested and have privacy. Make sure you have time to gather your thoughts, assess your feelings and those of your partner without letting too much time go by through denial.
  • EXPRESS love and support for your partner’s well-being before the issue is discussed.
  • RESPECT fully that you are two unique beings with different personalities, perceptions and life experiences. STAY CLEAR about what the issue is really about in the present- don’t drag up the past for the most part except with reference to what brought this about.
  • TALK AND LISTEN to each other’s views without interrupting each other. This serves to diffuse the emotions of the situation.
  • TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your feelings by starting your statements With “ I feel, I experience, I am finding that”…instead of “you always”…
  • NEGOTIATE a resolution that works for both of you even if it takes time. This way you both feel you have participated equally in the solution.

It is important that you both see and discuss your own part in the problem knowing that what you see in the other is a reflection of yourself. Sending fear thoughts to others is a way to deflect your own fear, it erodes closeness and trust and sabotages the inner resources you possess, to improve the relationship.

The clarity you both receive from this allows you to reduce the frustration of trying to change your partner while helping to you to communicate who you are and what you most want and need.

Mary Lee Zetter, LCSW-C Arundel Mind Body Institute