Conflict is that thing most are weary of confronting and few understand properly. In its most basic sense, conflict is no more than a difference of opinion. It is merely two things that are in opposite to each other. This does not mean conflict is automatically opposition. Conflict in and of itself is neither good or bad, it is the way it’s handled that can be destructive or constructive.
A relationship constitutes the involvement of more than one party. Each party possesses different opinions on things. It almost goes without saying that some of those opinions are opposing. Differences of opinions can escalade into heated arguments when conflict arises if it is not dealt with properly. The way in which conflict is dealt with, however, depends a great deal on the relationship type that is at hand.
Is it a family sub-system? Is it a friendship? Is it a marriage without children? Is it an external influence on the family? Is it a private conflict, or one that needs addressed in the family as a whole? Is it faculty related? Work peers?
Resolution will often depend on the type of conflict at hand. Handling it poorly can be destructive to the relationship(s) involved. Here are some barriers to overcoming conflict to look out for:
Triangulation is one example of poor conflict management. When one person in the conflict seeks out a third-party to gain power for his or her own position, we call this triangulation. It does not promote healthy resolution, but instead brings intimidation and control into the mix.
Family members and friends who are close to the ones in the conflict are particularly susceptible to being the third-party. If you are in a conflict and feel like pulling someone else into the discussion, you may very well be starting a triangulation on the person you’re in conflict with. Don’t do it. If you need help, get someone who is unbiased and can walk you both through it.
Denial is another destructive response to conflict. When either party of the conflict simply writes off any notion of conflict, denial is in the house. Denial can also look much more subtle. Failing to deal with an issue, as well as discounting of one’s angry reaction are both forms of denial.
Denial can have the tendency to turn into blame. A person may blame their outburst of anger on someone else, thereby denying personal responsibility for the outburst. Constructive approaches must be employed when dealing with conflict if trust and restoration is to be attained.
Blame happens when one person blames someone else for their behavior. As I said above, this is a form of denial. I put this in its own category because it has its own ugliness to it. People who are caught in a cycle of blaming often have a hard time getting out. It’s like an addiction.
People often blame because they create an identity attachment with the subject of conflict. In other words, if conflict arises out of a criticism on completing a project on time, they will begin using excuses to push the blame on everything but themselves. They have simply invested too much personal identity into their project.
Other times blame is heaped upon the other party. This happens most often in marriage relationships with poor communication skills. When one person who is insecure about their self, criticism, or even questioning a person’s motive, can often be perceived as a personal attack. Thus, blaming begins.
These three issues are by far exhaustive, but they probably stand at the top of the exhaustive list. Watch for them. Identify them early and avoid them at all costs. I promise that you will be better off for it.
What are some other barriers to overcoming conflict that I missed? How have you overcome conflict in a healthy way? Leave your comment by clicking here.