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My Personal Struggle When I Am In Conflict

There’s a reason why most people struggle to have only a few solid relationships. They are hard and take a lot of work!

My wife and I just spent two weeks in Asia. We taught on principles of healthy communication and conflict resolution. Besides my counseling, this is what I do best and I am most passionate about. And guess what? On the last night of our trip, my wife and I had a conflict!  Ugh!

It happens to all of us!

When I teach the PLEDGEtalk process, I don’t promise it will keep you from having conflict, though it can decrease and minimize it. I do promise however, you will know what to do when conflict happens.

Often times I share openly about conflicts I have had. This one however, is just a little too fresh for me to share at this time. Suffice it to say, it was over finances.

Following is my own internal struggle when the conflict happened, and looking back–four MUSTS my wife and I had to do in order for us to come back to peace and love each other once again.

No doubt you have heard me say that we rarely just decide to have a conflict. Instead, it just happens. It usually takes us by surprise. This case was no different for us.

We had just completed 30 plus hours of training on communication and conflict resolving and there we were–in a struggle with conflict ourselves! Even though I teach this stuff all the time, I am always caught off guard how difficult it is even for me to use the principles we teach when conflict actually happens. I don’t mean difficult because they are hard to understand. In fact, I think what I teach is quite clear (see HERE for a brief refresher OR HERE to get the full Infographic!) What I mean by difficult is this: when I find myself in the midst of a conflict I struggle to will myself to do what I know and teach is right. But I must! Let’s make that the first of the four MUSTS!

MUST # 1:  When conflict happens we must will ourselves to do what is right and good, regardless of how difficult it is to do.

Quite honestly, when conflict happens, I often don’t want to do what is good. I just want to do what is best for me and make my case. I want to make sure they see how they are wrong and that they get it right hereafter. It’s not a helpful mindset, I know. I am just telling you what often goes on inside of me and where I was that night. Repeatedly I had to check that part of me, get it under control, and move onto the next MUST.

MUST # 2: When we struggle with conflict, we must remind ourselves of what we value.

I value relationships and speaking with love and respect. My daughter is a Kindergarten teacher and is writing curriculum for her classroom, calling it the PLEDGE of Friendship. She teaches her children that when they are mad at each other, they have to remind themselves of the value of friendship. She teaches them to remember that the person they are mad at is their friend. I had to remind myself I was speaking with my wife whom I love dearly. Whether it is your spouse, your child, your friend, your co-worker or your boss–remind yourself to value the person in front of you. It was and is a must for me if I want to build my relationships. And there is nothing I value more.

MUST # 3: When conflict happens we must refuse to give in to the impulse to interrupt or make unkind comments.

Even when we remind ourselves of what we value, we have to monitor ourselves very carefully when talking with others. This is especially true when in the midst of a conflict. The struggle is controlling the impulses to interrupt and argue our own point of view, to tell the other where they are wrong, or to use hurtful words–all of which is terribly destructive to our relationships. I am painfully aware that I am very capable of doing everything of which I just spoke. I had to monitor myself carefully to not harm my wife as we discussed our frustrations with each other. It is hard, but worth it to us both.

MUST # 4: When conflict happens, we must be deliberate to use the principles of PLEDGEtalk.

I apologize if in any way that sounds arrogant. I sometimes fear that it does. But here is what I know. As I counselor, I have observed the way people communicate for hundreds if not thousands of hours and can tell you without hesitation what they are missing. It is found in PLEDGEtalk. In the conflict with my wife, I knew I had to listen to understand her perspective even when I didn’t want to. I needed to echo back what she said to make sure I understood correctly and we were on the same page. It was then crucial that I acknowledged that I understood her. And we both needed to take turns sharing our thoughts and feelings. Thankfully by doing so, we came back to peace.

Two additional thoughts I wrote en route to the USA via our connecting flight from Tokyo:

First, we received a testimony with the following story from one of the leaders where we just completed the PLEDGEtalk training on our trip:

“This morning we talked with Mary (not her real name) who shared how she used PLEDGEtalk in her communication with her husband. For years she has wanted out of her marriage but felt she could not leave. Both spouses felt trapped. This past week they had a huge conflict and could not talk to each other. Finally, when they had gotten to the point where they were not highly emotional, they had the longest conversation they had ever had. They were able to listen to each other, understand each other, hear each other’s concerns, and figure out the root of their issues! Mary said she has never felt freer. Since then this past week they have been able to communicate every time a conflict comes up and resolve it almost immediately using the PLEDGEtalk steps! The huge wall that had been built up over the past few years was taken down. They literally feel like they have put down their weapons finally!”

The principles of PLEDGEtalk work, when you work the principles!

Second, I just watched a commercial on our plane–presumably selling the idea of how wonderful air travel can be because we can stay in touch with those we love the most. It was a story of a little boy who ran to his dad just coming off the plane. They embraced and then walked down the corridor hand in hand. In the next scene, the dad was holding one of the son’s hands while the mom was holding the other as they were running through a field of tall wistful grass and spring flowers. A beautiful moment. And I thought to myself: it’s what we all want. Everyone on earth deeply longs to be loved and in relationships!   BUT–it takes work to make it happen.

Will you do the work? Will I?

In summary, remember these four MUSTS the next time you find yourself in the midst of a conflict:

  1. We must will ourselves to do what is right and good.
  2. We must remind ourselves of what we value most.
  3. We must refuse to give in to any impulse to interrupt or be unkind.
  4. We must be deliberate to use the principles of PLEDGEtalk.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions about what I have written. Leave them below. Thanks!

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