Conflict is a normal, necessary and natural part of life. It is uncomfortable for all the people in conflict and often for other close friends as well. Conflict presents two possibilities: opportunity for amazing growth in the relationship as well as possibility for additional problems. The challenge is to learn how to creatively work through the conflict to improve the relationship. Conflict is often more difficult to deal with when the disputant or opponent in the situation is a relative or good friend about whom one cares deeply. To keep the big picture of the relationship in view I will use “friend” when talking about the other person in the conflict.
It would be good to agree at the beginning of the conversation that both friends will work on the issue at hand and speak respectfully and honestly with each other. Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” The most important task in a conflict situation is to listen to the friend, to learn and understand how s/he is feeling and is affected by what has happened. This can be difficult, as people tend to be ready to defend themselves when they have been hurt.
In talking with this friend it is important to use I-messages, which is saying how the situation affects you, rather than you-messages, which seem to come naturally, and tend to accuse or blame the friend, as in “You made me….” A good way to deal with this is to honestly tell the friend that certain words or actions were hurtful. It is essential to be ready to listen to the answer openly, willing to accept some criticism the friend may share.
A step that may be hard is to accept responsibility for your role in the cause for the conflict. In constructively dealing with the situation it is good to do everything you can to fix the source of the conflict. In an example of an item that was broken, this could include paying for, or sharing the cost, to fix or replace it.
Conflict often causes a break in the relationship, and that can be resolved with both friends accepting responsibility for words and deeds, then agreeing to share action to come back together. One priority to repair the relationship is to apologize for anything you may have done to cause the problem. Other steps might be to request forgiveness for any fault on your part and to offer forgiveness for any error by the friend.
Mediation Services of Adams County is available if you need help with this. MSAC wishes you a fulfilling year in 2017, full of love and peace, creating constructive resolution for all your conflicts.
Mediation Services of Adams County will present a 22-hour Mediation Training Friday/Saturday, March 24-25, and 31-April 1. For more information, please contact MSAC: phone 717-334-7312, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and website http://mediateadams.org. Find information about communication seminars we present and trained mediators available to help people resolve complicated conflicts with family members, neighbors, contractors, landlords, etc. for an economical fee based on income.
Mary Kay Turner is a retired teacher, who is a trainer, mediator, and board member for MSAC.