In looking at taming the wild beast within us when our temper starts to flare so that we don’t wound the ones we love, we need to take a step back and look at the goal we want in our relationships.
As you think of your own conflicts, what is the goal?
To get your way? To make sure the other person does what you ask them? To win? To make sure you are heard? To retaliate for the things that you are feeling because of the other person’s poor choice of words?
If you choose to look at conflict in a different way and recognize the signals your body brings when things begin to escalate, you have a better chance of thinking clearly and moving the other person to either your way of thinking or a blended solution rather than ticking them off to the point of frustration.
Whether it be the one-upmanship of verbal blows between husband and wife or the anger that resonates from a parent when a tween or teen pushes the limit, we have an opportunity to choose to recreate an environment that will bring harmony and trust with our family members rather than turning our home into a battle ground which pushes the other person away.
Most people learn their conflict skills from watching their parents fight. Think about that. Two separate families’ baggage from previous generations have the ability to derail families based on their skill level when the heat is on. The divorce rates in America tell us how we’ve done in that area.
What if we, as a body of women, choose to learn the skills to do conflict well in our marriages and in our parenting? We could change the course of the family for our offspring. We could turn our conflict into connection that deepens the relationship.
So what does that look like?
Let’s assume that your spouse or teenager has just said something that riles you up. What should you do?
- TAKE INVENTORY of you. What do you feel? A tightening of your chest. Adrenaline rushing through your body? A searing thought of how dare they talk to me that way? Whatever it is just recognize it knowing that you have the ability to get it under control.
- BREATHE. Deep breaths have the ability to calm your central nervous system. Don’t speak or retaliate. Just breathe.
- LET their words spew.
- LISTEN. Remember harsh words and anger may have nothing to do with you. Maybe something happened at school or work today. You just happen to be the target because they need to take their frustration out on someone. At other times, it could be a result of something you’ve done or not done. Listening helps us discern truth in their anger. It allows us to admit fault and apologize if need be.
- AFTER they are finished, say something like. “Wow, I’ve obviously really upset you. I’m sorry. You are right, I did __________.” Or, if you are not at fault, start in the same manner but change the ending. “Wow, I’ve obviously really upset you. I’m sorry. Do you think you can calm down enough to talk about this now or should we talk about it after dinner? I really want to hear what you have to say.”
So here should be the real goal in any conflict. You want to make sure you are fully honest and fully respectful. It doesn’t matter if it is your husband, your teen, your twenty-something, or your best friend. Conflict needs respect and honesty.
So let’s think through the questions in my last post.
Dodging the landmines and pitfalls of conflict in your home doesn’t mean becoming a doormat. Being silent and allowing your husband or children berate you doesn’t build trust or intimacy. Walking away from the conflict actually pushes the person away emotionally just as much as engaging in unhealthy patterns of conflict. Setting the stage for respectful disagreement will actually build trust in the relationship.
While your feelings of hurt and frustration are bound to get riled as you listen to the criticism and harsh words of your loved one, recognize that your spouse or child hasn’t learned effective conflict communication skills yet. You are their teacher. Remind yourself that this is a learning process, the other person does love you, and by you changing the patterns of communication, everyone will benefit.
Revenge is something that most of us have struggled with in the past. But to build intimacy in our home, we have to remember
I Peter 3:9 CEB
Remember that rational dialog can only come after emotions have been soothed and anger has turned to calm. Sometimes you may need to take several “time outs” before the situation can really be resolved.
We have to learn how to manage conflict well in order to build trust and intimacy in our homes. While it isn’t always easy, and we will mess up, if we choose to work hard at trying to make some changes, it will not only increase the passion in our marriages but will serve as a model for our future generations.
I love how the woman who so bravely shared her struggle in my last post, summed up what we are trying to teach through The Respect Dare, With All Due Respect, Daughters of Sarah, and Generations.
It is because of all of (the skills) that we can go from knife-throwing to talking to laughing to snuggling. We can simmer down and ground ourselves once more.
This group and the experiences before it have preemptively saved my marriage. We are going to have moments like these again and God-willing we’ll be able to make it right when it happens. But what about others? For those who do not have the tools, what will happen to them?
If you struggle in this area, why not consider doing a small group in your home using The Respect Dare book or With All Due Respect book. Both of these will help you build skills that will have an impact on your marriage and your family.
Hope you’ll start adding these tools to your toolbox.
“Let go…and let God,”