Conflict Resolution


If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.   

                                                                                       Benjamin Franklin

Why is it that we would rather jump out of a moving car than communicate with our  spouse, significant other, or partner and face reality to resolve our issues?

We learn our methods of conflict resolution by observing our parents.  We learn what we lived in the formative years of our lives. What things did you learn?

  • discuss matters openly
  • withdraw
  • attack
  • never discuss it
  • give the cold shoulder
  • pretend nothing happened
  • discuss quietly after everyone calms down
  • nag until the other person discusses
  • snide comments and  sarcasm

The things we observed are compounded by our own temperaments. The  Type A personality is very unlikely to give cold shoulders or pretend nothing happened.  I have to admit, I don’t think I ever observed any quarrel that wasn’t dealt with in full force anger or rage, sarcasm, blame, yelling and screaming.   That was just on one side of the argument.  If left unchecked the anger will build and eventually kill relationships.

What causes quarrels and fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?  You desire and do not have, so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask.

We are often driven by our inner passions.  Passion is derived from the Greek word for “hedonism”, the belief that pleasure is the sole or chief good in life.  We are wired to seek pleasure, but it should not be pursued at any cost. A relationship by nature demands that you set your self-fulfillment aside in consideration of the other person. That’s the main difference between single and being a part of a relationship.  In a relationship you take the other person’s needs and fulfillment into consideration as well.

Next time you have a disagreement think of some ways you can defuse the situation before it escalates into an all out war.  First of all, watch your language.  Words that can instantly escalate a discussion to a fight are:

never, always, unless, can’t, won’t, don’t, should, shouldn’t.

Words that diffuse a conflict are:

maybe, perhaps, sometimes, what if, it seems like, I feel, I think, and I wonder.

For being so small our tongue can set the world ablaze in the space of a heartbeat. Conflict is inevitable if you are any relationship for longer than  an hour.   Consider the cost, is it worth causing a conflict to bring it up?  Is it just a matter of how you would do things?  Are you demanding your own way with no regards to your partner?  What patterns or habits are you contributing to the problem? What is your motivation for the confrontation?  Are you trying to retaliate? restore? punish? pursue peace? Are you being truthful?

In the heat of battle I do not fight fair.  I go in guns blazing when sometimes all it would have taken was  soft-spoken words.  I have to choose my words carefully when I am angry, because my first response is to lash out and make the other person hurt, make them pay for making me hurt, or making sure they know my displeasure is a result of their actions or lack there of.  Yes, I have a sharp tongue that is doubly poisoned when engaged in a fight.  I don’t fight fair, I fight to win.  All rationality leaves my mind and my behaviour is more like the response of a caged animal.  Yes, there’s a whole load of psychology behind THAT one. Let’s move on.

Counseling suggests  a few things to help diffuse a battle before it escalated to the War of the Roses.

FOCUS ON                                                                                RATHER THAN 

one issue                                                                                   many issues

the problem                                                                             the person

behaviour                                                                                 character

specifics                                                                                     generalizations

facts                                                                                             judgment of motives

“I” statements                                                                         “you” statements

understanding                                                                         who’s winning or losing

As you can see I remember all the things the counselor said.  The trick is applying them when you need them.  I’m still working on that one.  I’m doing better, getting less confrontational over matters that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Another bit of advice was to remember why you chose to be with this person in the first place.  Sometimes it comes down to the pros and cons table, is it worth it?  Is it worth bringing up the fact that (fill in the blank) when he knows I  (fill in the blank)?  Asking myself some questions before I blast has saved quite a few arguments.  Unfortunately,  there are also things that I’ve just resolved myself to live with.


  • You can win the battle and lose the war.
  • I can’t change him/her.
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated.

I have to admit, I wouldn’t want to fight with me.  I wouldn’t want to be treated the way I’ve treated others out of anger.  It’s not something I’m proud of.  The good news is I can change this in myself.

How do you deal with conflict resolution? Have any of these points helped you to think about what part you have in the conflict?

Winston Churchill, the prime minister of Britain during World War II was known for his passion and brilliance.  His wife, Clementine, wrote the following letter to lovingly confront him about his uncharacteristically harsh treatment of others around him:

My darling,

I hope you will forgive me if I tell you something that I feel you ought to know.  One of the men in your entourage ( a devoted friend) has been to me and told me that there  is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough, sarcastic, and overbearing manner.   .   .    .    I was astonished and upset, because in all these years I have been accustomed to all those who have worked with and under you , loving you – I said this and was told, “No doubt it’s the strain.”

My darling Winston, I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner, and you are not so kind as you used to be.

It is for you to give the orders, and if they are bungled . . . you can sack anyone and everyone.  Therefore, with this terrific power, you must combine urbanity, kindness, and if possible Olympic calm.  You used to quote “One can only reign over souls with calmness.”  .   .   .   .   I cannot bear that those who serve the country and yourself should not love you as well as admire and respect you. 

Besides, you won’t get the best results by irascibility and rudeness. They will breed either dislike or a slave mentality.

Please forgive your loving, devoted, and watchful Clemmie.

P.S. I wrote this at Cheques last Sunday, tore it up, but here it is now.

None of us are perfect.  We expect compassion and understanding from others,  we should extend it as well.  Extend a little grace to the one you love the most!

Write on my friends, write on.