Dear Reader, I’m the one who sees conflict as a growing experience. Do you? Or do you prefer to never, ever, deal with any form of conflict? Or maybe you choose to address conflict in certain situations. Well, wherever you land on the “addressing conflict” spectrum, we ALL have times of conflict in our relationships. This week here are 7 clear ways to instantly grow connection through conflict.
Yes we all have times of conflict and we all have a common design and desire. We are all designed for and desire connections that are real. Our common design is right from the heart of God who desires connection with us so he designed us with this same designed desire and designed need as well. The times you find yourself craving to be with others is because your inherent design and desire is in operation. The challenge is to choose healthy connection when past pain, present issues, or future fear get in the way. Our brains and bodies down to very cells are all about connection. For all you science lovers out there- there are multiple scans and studies which prove the way our brains are social in nature and truly need other healthy people.
When we think of conflict sometimes we think conflict is the absence of health, but conflict leads to health – when conflict is done in healthy ways. Conflict truly does allow us to remain connected while strengthening our relationships.
To allow conflict to grow connection in a healthy relationship we need to call out the typical cycle that occurs. Why? Once we see the cycle, we can change the cycle. Typically there is a conflict cycle that starts either with a hurt or with a disagreement. Once that starts, typically most people hurl, hurt others, or hide. Some might do one initially and then do the other. We all will do these things because we are all designed for and desire connection.
Reflection question pause: Which one do you typically do first (hurl, hurt others, or hide)? What would it take for that initial trigger to change?
I hear you saying, wait how does our design and desire lead us to hurl, hurt, or hide? Because there is sin in the world that gets in the way of our connection. Sin is the thing that goes against our original design for health, life, positive difference, and yes real connection. It’s everywhere and in everyone. But also because we were designed for and desire connection, we also have hope for a cure from sin, called Jesus. Jesus brings in hope, grace, faith, and power to heal and be healed.
So back to the cycle – If it starts with hurling, hurting others, or hiding from others or your own stuff, the next step is typically distance that comes from the hurt or the disagreement. That distance typically increases as we stand firm until we feel heard, understood, and valued. Then the cycle repeats with the hurt or disagreement. Maybe you’ve heard or said something like, “Well, I don’t think you’re hearing me!” or “This just reminds me of the other time before that you did…”.
Instead of letting the cycle continue, try a growth plan!
Here’s the growth plan way to grow connection through conflict – If the cycle starts with hurt or disagreement, then choose to confront the issue and collaborate on the goal first. Keep yourself focused on your common goal and seek clarity along the way. (see my post on my blog page for Requesting Clarity and the free worksheet) Then as you confront the issue, collaborate on the goal and seek clarity in each other’s points, you will build understanding.
Understanding is the good soil that can grow connection so this is a big one. As you build understanding you will next see increased trust for each other. We all know that where there is trust, there is intimacy. Intimacy isn’t just the sexual, intimacy is a whole person experience and can be experienced emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and yes sexually but all of these are relational forms of intimacy that must have healthy soil in which to flourish. As intimacy grows, that’s when we see connection growing and healthy growth in your relationship too!
Reflection question pause: What is a recent conflict that was addressed where you felt that trust was increased so you felt closer in healthy ways?
Dr. Gary Oliver puts it this way in 7 steps – And the free worksheet, 7 steps to grow connection out of conflict, can help you see this in action!
7 Simple Steps Through Conflict To Intimacy—by Gary J. Oliver, PhD.
- Define the ______________, Seek ________________________ Prov 2:2-4, 4:7-9
Is there more than one issue involved? –take one at a time
What is the other person’s core concern? –seek to understand using questions
What is MY core concern? –seek to understand own motivation
- How ___________________________ is it? High or Low ticket
- Do I need to apologize or ask for forgiveness? Apologies have a format, so follow the format to experience real forgiveness.
I was ________________ for doing __(fill in blank with your hurtful word or action)__.
I am _________________.
Please ___________________ me.
- Ask yourself “What is ________ contribution to the problem? Psalm 139:23-24
- Choose what ____ can do differently.
- Choose what ______ can do differently.
- Pray about it and then just do it!
Answers to blanks: issues, understanding, important, wrong, sorry, forgive, my, I, we, anger
From Mad About Us: The Surprising Truth About Intimacy by Gary J. Oliver, PhD. The Center for Relationship Enrichment at John Brown University
Yes, this is easier said and read than done! However it is possible, it’s just difficult. Why is having constructive conversation in conflict so difficult? I’d say it’s because of sadness, hurt, and disappointment that occurred in the past and wasn’t resolved. When hurt and disappointment are there, it always leads to anger and fear. Anger and fear are called secondary emotions, because they come after the first, or primary, emotions which are typically sadness, hurt, and disappointment.
Dr. Oliver says it this way – “Constructive conflict is difficult because of secondary emotion in response to a primary emotions. Differentiate between the experience and the expression of anger!” This means recognizing how you are feeling, affirming the validity of the emotion and then choosing to express it authentically but in a way that builds connection.
When you choose to move into conflict with both a growth plan and helping yourself tell the difference between the experience and the expression of anger, you can choose to connect through conflict. One tool to help with the experience of anger or really any emotion is the I Feel/I Know tool. Simply it looks like: “I Feel _____ but/and I Know ____”. Express what you feel then apply but if what you feel is contrary to who God says you are, or apply and if what you feel affirms who God says you are. When you land on “know” that tells your brain you heard the emotion and you have a trust-filled action to move on.
Reflection question pause: What is a current conflict or issue where you can practice applying a growth plan?
- Did a current conversation or a certain someone pop into mind as you read this blog?
- Download the worksheet! 7 steps to grow connection out of conflict
- Share this blog with someone else
- DO you want more help on applying I Feel but/and I Know? Connect with me and I will email you the free handout!
We were never designed to go through life alone, but life and adulting can make it begin to feel like that! Don’t let it stay that way! Get back to the important things of building healthy relationships and being a healthy, safe, good friend to those in your life! Together we can make a difference in bringing about healthy, safe, good growing relationships!
Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs a counseling center in Austin, Texas and with husband David Lawrence co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me
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