To a total stranger, my girlfriend and I may seem like no more than a lovey-dovey pair of people who have been in the honeymoon stage for nearly a year and a half. But the truth is, it’s not all hugs and kisses. In fact, we’ve had our share of relationship conflicts from time to time. These conflicts, however, don’t slowly erode our relationship, but rather, they give us the tools to build a strong foundation based on effective communication.
One conflict that has arose between us is my sense of humor. Unfortunately, I have this tendency to make rude, sarcastic comments in a tone that isn’t easily detectable as a joke. Everything is fine and dandy until she’s the butt of the joke, however. This sometimes leads to insecurity on her part, stubbornness on my part, and a misunderstanding between both of us. It’s here that I must exercise my conflict resolution skills to clear up confusion and make amends.
Most people get caught up in the heat of the moment and try to compete with one another using defensive communication tactics like sudden-death statements, dirty secrets, or explosive outbursts to win the argument. These tactics, however, are very destructive to all relationships, especially close ones. That’s why, when faced with conflict with my girlfriend, I don’t try to “win” the argument or attack her personally. As the book says, “attack problems, not people.”
Instead of firing off destructive messages, I analyze and approach the conflict carefully. Whether I feel she is overreacting or that she has a valid point, I try to collaborate with her, clear up miscommunication, accommodate her if necessary, and apologize for any misunderstanding. One of the most important concepts to consider, however, is to let go of your pride before addressing conflict. Even if you’re certain that the other person is in the wrong, take a second to listen to their point of view—you may even change your mind after the conflict is resolved.