Maybe you grew up in a loving home with parents who never fought. Or maybe you saw fighting all the time. Maybe it was TV shows with married couples that gave you ideas of what conflict looks like. Perhaps you think the people who never argue have the healthiest relationships.
Conflict is bound to happen with your wife if you’re married, with your colleagues, with your kids. But what matters is how you handle it. If you learn to handle conflict well, you can grow closer. Sadly, many people never learn how to deal with issues. They live their lives in a constant stream of unhealthy conflict resolution. Get to know these 3 really bad ways to resolve conflict so you don’t repeat them in your relationships.
1. Give it time.
If you want to heal a physical injury, time often helps. But for the most serious injuries, it’s not just time that heals. You need everything from surgeries to rehabilitation to ongoing care and conditioning. It’s no different with conflict. If you think just giving it time and doing nothing else will resolve a conflict, it—like a serious injury—will only get worse.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” When there’s conflict between two people, waiting to address it rarely helps. So when conflict arises, it’s a time for confession, repentance, and seeking forgiveness to restore the relationship. It’s an opportunity to confront unhealthy attitudes and behavior. Whether it’s your fault or the other person’s, be the one who initiates the conversation about the conflict rather than simply letting time pass. Until you find a resolution, the conflict will fester, grow, and rear its ugly head again.
2. Pretend it doesn’t exist.
Of all the bad ways to resolve conflict, avoiding it may be the one to anger your loved ones the most. Imagine having conflict but then pretending all is well for days, weeks, or months. This might be easier for a time, but this doesn’t create a real, connected relationship. Pretending nothing bothers you—or pretending that nothing bothers other people—is only going to disconnect you.Instead of acting like there’s no conflict in a relationship, acknowledge it.
Instead of acting like there’s no conflict in a relationship, acknowledge it. And be clear about your desire to resolve it. With busy schedules, this may mean deciding on a time when it’s best to deal with the issue. The point is not to let things go but to see to it that both people in the relationship feel cared for and listened to—and for both to become adaptable. I’m convinced that many marriages and other relationships fail because the people in them stop addressing issues. Over time, the ignored issues stack up and ultimately reach a seemingly insurmountable point.
3. Punish the other person until he or she changes.
When a loved one is in the wrong, many of us will “help” him or her see the error of his or her ways. Some people even make each other pay by using punishment. But we aren’t supposed to punish each other. This may be the easiest way to try to handle conflict, but if you’re using the silent treatment, yelling, name-calling, or even leaving during arguments, you won’t resolve conflict—you’ll prolong it.
If this is your way of handling conflict, know the ways you can communicate better. Work to be a good listener, speak the truth in love, always be respectful, and be clear in your communication. Resolving conflict takes practice and experience. And it isn’t easy. But it’s worthwhile.
Sound off: What are some other bad ways to resolve conflict?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is the hardest part of resolving conflict?”