Monday, February 6, 2012

Engaged Relationships

Some of us are virtuosos at avoiding conflict.  Our deftness at dodging these arrows however, can put us in danger of running the risk of missing out on true and lasting engaged relationships.

True conflict is not the same as coercion or manipulation.   True conflict has three necessary ingredients: 

1.  a fully engaged relationship, 
2.  some controversy or disagreement, 
3.  a desire to remain in the engaged relationship.  

If all three components are not present, you don’t have conflict – not that what you have is somehow not painful, but it is temporary.  True conflict involves the highest of stakes:  the engaged relationship is at risk.

The risk of living a life which avoids conflict is that you run the risk of making it very difficult to  develop fully engaged relationships.    Think about your best relationships.  They usually involve some degree of falling into and climbing back out of conflict. 

When someone whose relationship you value engages you in what you feel to be a conflict, it is helpful to have some developed responses that you can rely on from memory.  Particularly good when meaning is not fully disclosed is something like “I am sensing that something has come between us that is very upsetting to you and I’d like to learn more about it.”  When meaning is fully disclosed, some more direct engagement normally works “Thank you for bringing your feelings to my attention.  I’d like to talk about what we can do to resolve this concern.”

Conflict is GOOD – it is a normal component of your best relationships.  What’s bad is being ill-equipped to deal with it.  If conflict scares you, I would suggest reading Crucial Conversations by Patterson, et al.  If conflict really scares you, I would suggest reading it twice.

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