In our lives, we have many relationships that are integral to our happiness, growth and well-being. We may have family, friends, work colleagues, children, or relatives who support us when we encounter roadblocks, or help us make difficult decisions. Thus relationships are a huge part of our lives, and it would be very hard to live without them.
Relationships can have its own roadblocks to overcome. Every relationship has strengths and challenges of its own. Even the healthiest relationship has its conflicts to be resolved. It’s not these conflicts which decide its impact on the relationship but the way we handle it. All of us know what it feels like to be in conflict with a friend, family member, or work colleague: we may feel stressed, sad, upset and angry, and sometimes conflict with our loved ones can overwhelm us.
During these times, you may feel like there is no way to strengthen your bonds. However, here are some catch-all ways to smoothen out a conflict (Gottman, 2015):
- Communicate in a calm and gentle way: It is natural to feel frustrated and overwhlemed by emotions when weare in the middle of a conflict. However, it is important to remember to address the situation in as gentle a manner as possible. According to Gottman (2015), disagreements most often end in the same tone they were started, so it is best to start-up the conversation in a way that will not offend or upset your loved one. Try to keep the tone of the conversation calm and gentle. This is because speaking in aggressive or emotionally charged tone can evoke emotional reactions like anger, guilt, shame and they might react in a defensive way which would not help both of you in resolving the conflict.
- Make Effective Repairs & De-Escalate: Try to make use of phrases such as “Let me try again,” “I don’t feel like you are understanding me right now,” and “I’m sorry” to help de-escalate any tension, and begin to understand what will help them feel calmer during that state.
- Psychological self-soothing: Handling relationship conflicts can be exhausting for anyone. Along with making efforts to calm your loved one, it is important to work towards caring for yourself.
If you feel overwhelmed, take a time-out by going for a walk, bathing, reading, meditating or doing a bit of deep breathing. This is true especially when you feel you are too overwhelmed. This will help you both to reach a calmer state of mind. 20 minutes of self-soothing should be enough to put you in a more peaceful state of mind, where you’ll be able to communicate better.
- Complain, don’t blame: Even though you may feel your friend or loved one is at fault, try to approach them in a non-accusatory way. Instead of blaming your loved one, try to simply convey your message, for e.g. “I heard you said something about me behind my back. I didn’t think you would say that. I’m upset about this.”
- Be clear and simply describe what is happening. Try to step back and describe what you are experiencing and how you see the situation. You could say, “It seems like I’m making more of an effort to stay in touch. Could you try and meet me halfway?” instead of saying “You never keep in touch, you are a bad friend!” In this way, your loved one is more likely to hear your point of view and accept responsibility.
- Don’t let it all pile up: In your relationships, allowing problems to pile up only hinders communication and healthy conflict resolution. Before allowing situations to escalate, address them with your loved one and clear the air.
All relationships are built on a foundation of mutual respect and care. In order to nourish a relationship, both parties need to nurture it. We may lose touch with friends, move away from family, or forget that our work colleagues have complicated, busy lives too. Thus, it is important to care for our relationships in order for them to thrive.
Here are some simple reminders that can go a long way in maintaining healthy relationships.
- Count on the small things: A little effort can go a long way: cook your friend a meal, call your parents just to catch up, or bring your kids breakfast in bed. Even the smallest act of love can brighten someone’s day, and remind them that they are important to you!
- Use technology the right way: Technology helps us to stay in touch with our loved ones when they are far away but also distances us from those who are close by. Sometimes, the ease of keeping in touch over a text message allows us to drift apart. So while a text message or video call goes a long way, face-to-face quality time goes even further!
- Remember… each relationship is different: Like a garden of flowers, each relationship requires nurturance and care, but in different amounts. Try and understand what each relationship needs to thrive, and care for it accordingly.
- Make it a point to remember important occasions: As simple as it sounds, everyone gets caught up in the day-to-day, and can easily forget an important occasion. Nobody likes when a friend forgets their birthday or anniversary, so make sure you support and celebrate the occasions that are most meaningful to your friends. And, in case you do forget, try to make up for it by doing something special.
- Really, truly listen: The mark of a true friend or family member is that they listen to you, and hear your perspective. Make sure that when you talk to your friends, you listen to what they say, and try to put yourself in their shoes. That way, they know you are really there for them.
People often believe that conflict indicates that a relationship is doomed to fail. However, conflict is completely natural and can be instrumental in strengthening bonds between two people. With a bit of love, care and focused effort, conflict can be overcome, and your relationship can thrive!
Relationship conflicts can be difficult and emotionally taxing. Having a sensitive, affirmative, patient and supportive listening ear with you in this process can be greatly helpful in this process. At iCALL, our trained and qualified team of counsellors provide a secure, non-threatening space for you to give voice to your hitherto suppressed experiences of trauma. Feel free to reach out to us over the phone on 022-25521111 or over email at email@example.com. You can also chat with us on nULTA app – Google Play store. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nultadoctor&hl=en
A single phone call, email or chat may be the first step towards a new chapter in your life!
References: Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert. Harmony.