Conflict means disagreement, rivalry, clash, strife, struggle, opposition or quarrel, arising from differences in opinions, understanding, thoughts, attitudes or interests. Conflict can exist between persons, groups, societies or even countries. To manage conflict in a relationship requires high emotional intelligence and a lot of deliberate actions.
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What is Conflict in a Relationship?
Relationship conflict exists when partners, friends, co-workers, siblings or family members disagree in opinions, attitudes and thoughts. Disagreements are part of life and relationships. Hardly can you have a meaningful relationship with someone and not have opposing views and thoughts. How you handle such diversity, therefore, determines the strength of your bond and the extent of a conflict, if one should arise.
Although it can be exhausting and uncomfortable, conflict in a relationship is not always bad. When it is healthy and beneficial, conflict presents an avenue for people to see and know how others view and perceive the world. It helps also in personal and public growth and offers solutions to problems.
On the downside, when conflict is unhealthy and unbeneficial, or when you employ poor management strategies, conflict can be harmful to all involved. It can create tension and uneasiness in homes or works places, and can erode the satisfaction in romantic relationships.
Conflict in relationships doesn’t affect only the parties involved; it can spread to the people around them. For instance, conflict between parents’ can negatively impact the kids. A child who grew up in a family where the parents constantly engage in hostile remarks during quarrels may engage in similar conflict strategies also.
5 Causes of Conflicts in a Relationship
People get into conflict for many reasons aside from the differences in understanding, attitudes, opinions and reasoning. Hence, when partners or colleagues clash and disagree all the time without finding a common ground, they have to first determine the underlying causes.
Some of these causes include:
This is one of the major causes of disagreements and squabbles. When we expect so high of someone, and they fail to meet up with such high bars, we feel hurt and betrayed or even angry, hence giving rise to tension and fights.
When there is a communication breakdown, conflict in relationships is provoked. This is because contact between the two people, or groups of persons is hampered. Misunderstanding often ensues for lack of knowledge about the other person’s thoughts and feelings.
No two persons are the same or hold the same perception of things. Hence, differences in opinions, values, policies, thoughts, ideas and goals tend to often clash and give rise to conflict.
This is another major cause of conflict in a relationship. When egotism, conceit, narcissism and arrogance persist, you think only about your needs and preferences. As a result, conflict builds up and manifests.
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While constructive criticism is good and fosters healthy relationships and organisational growth, mortifying criticism is entirely different. Condemnation, blame and dispraise often hurt and shame the person(s) on the receiving end which often leads to conflict in relationships.
Read also: How to overcome insecurity as a Nigerian
Some Outcomes of Conflict
Conflict, as strenuous as it may be, impacts positively or negatively on relationships, workplaces, homes and organisations. When you manage conflict in a relationship adeptly, it can be greatly beneficial such that it:
- Builds trust and fosters better understanding
- Brings about pronounced creativity, progress, success and development
- Improves cooperation, unity and reconciliation
- Promotes mutual respect and tolerance of opinions
- Inspires positive change and growth
- Leads to reassurance and ease
Nevertheless, when you manage conflict in a relationship inadequately or leave it unresolved, it causes damaging consequences like:
- Depression, loneliness and anxiety
- Violence and dissonance
- A decline in productivity, progress and growth
- Health and psychological complications
- Constraints and distraught
- Insecurity and fear
You can easily advert these adverse effects of conflicts when you take the right steps to conflict resolutions.
Read also: How to manage depression as a Nigerian lady
10 Tips to Manage Conflict in a Relationship
Conflict is part of life and relationships. It doesn’t have to jeopardise your association with people. When you learn how to work through conflicts and disagreements, it often strengthens relationships and encourages growth and development.
There are numerous exceptional conflict management approaches to take as to achieve maximum positive outcomes.
Respect Ideals/ Agree to disagree
Compromise and respect of principles remain another healthy way to manage conflict in a relationship. Sometimes, instead of questioning and criticising people’s principles which may lead to disputes, you can choose to accept and live with the fact that others have philosophies, which may not be the same as yours.
This strategy comes in very handy when issues of taste, beliefs and preferences arise, as is common among Nigerians, especially on social media. In a situation like this, ask yourself, “Is it fair to clash with other people because of their religious ideologies?” Frankly, your chosen religion (Islam, Christianity, or traditional) doesn’t make you better than others. Neither does it give you the right to put down others or disrespectfully question their beliefs.
Also, when it comes to food, tribes and cultures have foods that are peculiar to them. It isn’t within anyone’s right to question the palatability of other tribes’ food. The same thing goes for clothing preferences. That you don’t agree with an appearance isn’t enough reason to criticise it openly and rudely.
Truth is, we would always argue in favour of our preferences. Therefore, to avoid and manage conflict in a relationship, recognise the uniqueness in the choices of others. It would go a long way to circumvent looming conflicts.
Determine the Root Cause
Most times, conflicts are not always what they seem to be about. There may be underlying problems already, hence, causing a little misunderstanding to blow out of proportion.
Some people are guilty of what we call “transferred aggression.” A case where they project certain subjects of anger onto future occurrences. Most times the previous cause of anger may be entirely different from the current situation.
In a case like this, you need to take a step back and ask your partner or colleague if there is a greater problem that needs to be fixed first, only then will there be a way to the discord resolution.
Honesty is an important step to manage conflict in a relationship. Parties need to truthfully express how they feel, their fears, reservations and issues because only then would they meet a lasting resolution.
Most times, we may be tempted to lie to drive home a point or to make our views somewhat stronger. You are guilty of this, and so am I. But, to reach an accord, we should try our best to speak our truth, however hard it is.
When disputes arise, try as much as possible not to flare up. Once arguments turn to insults and bellicosity, it’s almost impossible to manage conflict.
When you hurl insults at others during an argument, do you think they will stand and take it from you? There is no bigger person in Nigerian disagreements o, as everybody is always vexing. But still, this is an invitation to be the bigger person and stay calm. If not, peace takes a step farther. Being reasonable and patient amidst conflict is necessary to achieve a positive result.
Listen to Comprehend
Being an active listener is very valuable when trying to manage conflict in a relationship. When in disagreement, try to listen and understand where the person is coming from and why the person feels such way. Do not listen only to reply.
You can even calmly ask for a better explanation if you have trouble understanding their anger. This approach shows you’re making serious efforts to see things from some other person’s point of view, not just yours. It portrays selflessness, consideration and flexibility, which are very important in conflict management.
Don’t let impatience influence your actions. Conflict management is not about winning the argument, it’s about understanding each other and possibly learning something new.
Consider ideal timing
To manage conflict in a relationship, it is important not to discuss the issues when both parties are tired, overwhelmed or frazzled.
When an argument arises, and you realise that the other person is getting irritated or restless, just pause. You can bring it back up when both of you are physically and mentally alert for a serious conversation. This method always works out just fine.
Pick Your Battles
Not all issues are worth your time and energy. When you realise that the bone of contention is inconsequential, laugh it off mildly, and respectfully drop it.
You shouldn’t engage in a long argument over which brand of milk, football clubs, or celebrities are better. If it’s for fun, that’s not a problem, but when it becomes something serious, learn to walk away.
Sometimes, to effectively manage conflict in a relationship means to choose inner peace over making a point.
Collaboration of Opinions
This method integrates the opinions of both conflicting parties. It requires sitting together to fashion out an idea that accommodates the diverging views and generate a lasting solution. This often leads to a win-win resolution.
This strategy is effective to manage conflict in a professional setup. If workers have diverging views on what the organisation needs or when colleagues disagree on a work schedule, collaboration can be the hero.
Consult a Professional
When you have issues that are greatly overwhelming and taking a toll on your physical, mental and psychological make-up, seek the help of a professional that helps to manage conflict. These professionals can help you to get past your trivial and major disagreements and find a lasting solution.
Many Nigerians may consider this approach weird or a waste of time because they don’t believe in counselling. However, as a generation of change and technological advancement, you would agree that there are issues that professionals would handle way better than you will.
These professionals are trained to listen to people pour out their frustration and fears. They will never condemn you even when you are clearly at fault. They will listen attentively to you, ask you questions, work you through your anxieties, fears and disagreements, and offer solutions to your problems. In most cases, if you permit them, they will also follow up on you. These professionals take it upon themselves to achieve a positive result from their patients.
If you reside in places where this professional help is scarce, the internet and technology have made things easier. Go online and search for seasoned professional help. But do not forget to do your due diligence on background checks before you begin your session with the experts.
This strategy aims at reducing conflicts by ignoring, evading or sidestepping them in some manner. For instance, when someone makes a very annoying comment about you, instead of replying, you can just laugh it off or ignore it.
This method is really hard, for some people would rather fight back than condone mean attitudes from others. But then, consider the energy you will invest while fighting back. Isn’t it better you save that strength and use it for something profitable?
Conflict, I dare say, is a way of life. Everyone should be equipped with the necessary and best conflict management strategy. To manage conflict in a relationship, learn to make sacrifices, moderate your expectations, and accommodate divergent views opinions and ideas.
In all, effective communication is the most important skill needed to manage conflict in a relationship. Finally, it is of primary importance that each one of us strives to improve our conflict management skills for a smooth relationship and association with all.
What a read, right? Share your opinions in the comment section or join Insight’s WhatsApp community to start a conversation on how to manage conflict.
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