Conflict is a Relationship

Question posed: My dear friend and I stopped talking to each other after a huge disagreement. As far as I’m concerned, the relationship is over like we’ve divorced, or I fired my friend. Yet, that fight and my ex-friend is all I seem to talk about when I see others who know us both,. What’s that about and how do I move on?

Answer: Some people, and this apparently includes you, believe that conflict breaks relationships as if the relationship no longer exists. In fact, conflict ties the conflicting people in one of the most tightly coupled of bonds. The reason is simple, and no doubt you’ll recognize it. Few emotions are stronger than feelings of anger, betrayal, pain, rage, insult, rejection, hurt feelings, and/or mistrust. So, what can you do about it? The cure is as simple as the reason, and yet not simple to enact.

Conflict is a tightly coupled relationship you continue in your mind

This is different than missing a friend who’s moved away or died, which are other reasons for talking a lot about a dear friend. Typically, when people have a conflict they replay in their head the circumstances, the conversations, and the changes that occur as a result. Things said that are now regretted, and not said that should have been said, now cycle around your mind, sometimes disturbing your sleep or concentration.

Your friendship is over, not the conflict

Are you going about your business thinking about how justified, righteous, misunderstood, hard done by or aggrieved you are? If so, you haven’t finished the conflict. As you go about your day, keep appointments, push a buggy in the grocery store, and visit with loved ones, there is a low-grade interference with your feeling of well being. Even when the ex-friend is not near by, you argue your point of view to them and supply all the dialogue for two.

In other words, there is often little or no escape from your mind thinking of the person you feel with high emotion has somehow wronged you. You are still in the conflict.

Putting a conflict experience behind you takes an effort 

A conflict competent strategy whether it is conversing with, apologizing to, sending a message for the other people – is just about the only method for changing a conflict relationship. In other words, forgive, ask forgiveness, and come to terms with what happened.

It isn’t easy to do. Again, the reason is simple: fear of rejection, ego, belief in the correction of your point of view, unwillingness to back down, etc. Again, the solution is simple. I call it transforming from giving them a piece of your mind to giving yourself peace of mind. Reframe the cure from thinking of losing the conflict, or grovelling. You aren’t losing either the fight or face. You are gaining self-respect. And, learning new skills. And gaining self awareness and insight into your worldview. You win, you win you win. Better yet, you’re winning the correct conflict; the one with yourself and your mind.

Bottom line is that avoiding, ignoring, or pretending about conflict is rarely successful in relieving us from the harsh effects of conflict. Our thoughts tend to keep us actively engaged with the conflict even as we try to forget about it. Dealing competently with the person or people we are in conflict with is the best solution to putting the conflict behind us.

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