Conflict is messy, but if you live in a family, it’s also inevitable. Experience shows that most of us approach it one of two ways.
Some of us feel so threatened by conflict that we decide to ignore it. Your pre-teen misses a curfew…you decide the drama isn’t worth it, so you just keep quiet. You told your five year old to clean up the toys, and she didn’t, but it’s just easier to do it yourself, so you do it. Sure, it’s important to choose your battles, but some of us can end up choosing to ignore them all. It feels like we’re winning, but we’re not. Conflict and truth are necessary components of life, and when we ignore real issues, everyone loses.
Other parents aren’t nearly as afraid of conflict. We let people know what we think – often with the full force of all the emotions we feel inside. Tempers flare. Things get said. We have to apologize after. The people who love to avoid conflict look at that kind of exchange and think “See, that’s why I never say anything. I don’t want to be like that.”
But maybe those two approaches aren’t the only way to communicate. What trumps them both is communicating in way that gives the relationship value. You can still engage the issue. Just make sure you affirm the person while doing it.
One very constructive way of dealing with conflict is to do just that – separate out the issue from the person. The issue might be that your son lied, and you need to deal with that. But the truth is you want the relationship to thrive. He’s actually not the issue. What he did is the issue. You want him, you just don’t want the lie – in your life or in his.
Separating the issue from the person allows you to communicate in a way that shows you value the relationship – and still deal with the issue.
How have you seen this work in your home? What’s the greatest challenge in separating the person from the issue for you?